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  • 03 August 2020
  • 7 min read

Student Nursing During The COVID-19 Pandemic: My Placement Experience

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    • Matt Farrah
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Richard Gill
  • 1
  • 6105
"There has been miscommunication between the trusts and the higher powers, and we have suffered as a result."

Student Nurse, Emily, highlights how new measures have affected working relationships between Nurses, and gives some observations on what Student Nurses can expect moving forward.

Topics covered in this article

Cancelled and Postponed: Everything Was Up In The Air

My Community Hospital Placement

My Overall Experience

The Future For Student Nurses

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Cancelled and Postponed: Everything Was Up In The Air

It has been a few weeks since I wrote a piece about being a second year Student Nurse during the Coronavirus pandemic.

At that point, I was completing the last of my second year theory work (ironically, a module about Global and Public Health) and was still awaiting confirmation of an Extended Paid Clinical Placement (EPCP).

I was in contact with two different trusts and the start date of 29th June was edging ever closer, and I was still getting nowhere regarding a placement.

On Friday 26th June, I received a call from one of the trusts stating that they had two potential placement areas for me.

This was for a trust that I wouldn’t normally have chosen, as I have only recently got my first car and these placements were at least 40 minutes away.

I was nervous, but with community services still working differently with more remote working and some hospital wards closed, placement opportunities were, and still are, very scarce.

I accepted and said I would take any of the placements they were offering.

The drive may be longer than I am used to, but I saw all of it as experience.

The following Monday was the expected start date for EPCP, and I didn’t have anything confirmed.

At that point, I expected to wait at least a week to be offered a placement.

However, I was called that day and told to start the next day at 7:30am.

I don’t think I really had time to process that I would be starting placement, and that day was just a blur.

But, at the same time, I was very grateful that it had been offered to me, as many of my peers hadn’t been as lucky as me.

My Community Hospital Placement

I was placed on a rehabilitation ward in a very small community hospital.

Those admitted to the ward have been in an acute hospital and are recovering.

Rather than being discharged from the acute hospital straight home, some patients may benefit from rehabilitation to regain their independence with mobility and self-care, or sometimes it allows complex discharges to be worked out.

This frees up beds in acute hospital wards and allows the patient to begin to feel that they are ready to go home.

I must admit, when I was told I would be going to a community hospital I was skeptical.

My idea of community hospitals was that they were boring, and that I wouldn’t get much out of it because it’s not a fast paced, acute setting.

Yes it isn’t an acute setting, but the nursing care, multidisciplinary teamwork and care planning involved has to be exceptional to allow patients to return home safely and reduce the risk of readmission if possible.

The ward I am on consists of 15 beds, but at the moment only about half of the beds are taken.

The ward is fully staffed, and sometimes offer-staffed, due to me being a Student Nurse and two temporary healthcare assistants who were taken on in March and are contracted until October.

Despite this, I feel like a valuable member of the team as I can assist with admissions and discharges, and also work with members of the multidisciplinary team to ensure all patients are receiving the correct care and treatment for them to allow them to return home when possible.

What Do You Think?

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My Overall Experience

This placement has been very different to the other placements I have been on, mainly because of the pandemic.

I am on this placement in a new capacity - a paid Student Nurse.

This has been very difficult for the staff I am working with to get used to, as there have been blurred lines around my role and what I am covered to do on the ward.

My contract states that I am a healthcare assistant, however this is just because I am on the same wage as they are.

My role and responsibilities are the same as that of a supernumerary Student Nurse, however if the placement area is understaffed, those on a paid placement can take on healthcare assistant responsibilities.

As my ward is fully staffed, I am not required as a healthcare assistant so should be able to complete the competencies and proficiencies required to be assessed for me to complete my placement as pass it.

Many of us have struggled with this.

There has been miscommunication between the trusts and the higher powers, and we have suffered as a result.

Luckily for me, I have stayed in touch very closely with my university who have been wonderful and have done everything they can to ensure our placements are going as smoothly as possible.

The Future For Student Nurses

Those who opted out of the EPCP, whether due to personal reasons, health reasons or just because they hadn’t managed to be placed, were offered a Virtual Simulation (VSim) from our University.

The options to make up placement hours are completely individualised to each university, as they all have different timetables with placement blocks in different places.

The VSim has 10 scenarios; different patients with different diagnoses that require individualised care (as with a hospital ward).

Completing these can be put forward to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) as placement hours.

Therefore, those who could not complete the EPCP for whatever reason will not be down on their hours for this academic year.

This has changed recently, as there are some issues with those studying single field Adult Nursing so the VSim will not be able to count as placement hours for them.

Regarding next year, we have been told so far that they are hoping all placements will be able to go ahead as normal although we will probably be sent to different placement areas than expected.

This all depends on the state of the NHS, and another wave of COVID 19 would change this again.

As Student Nurses, placement experiences are very important for us and are essential to enable us to become good nurses.

Although we don’t have a straight answer for this yet, many of us understand that this is out of everyone’s hands and it will just be a bit of a waiting game.

For our theory work, we have been told that we should expect blended learning in September.

They are very keen for us to get our skills sessions done, and as we will be third year students by that point there aren’t many that can be done online.

These are planned to go ahead in small groups in large rooms to accommodate for social distancing, but ensure we get our essential skills training.

The large lectures will go ahead online as the large groups that attend these lectures would not be able to be in one room together.

The university are keeping us up-to-date, and are trying to plan in advance so that we will still be able to get a high-quality education within the bounds of the pandemic.

Let me know your placement experience in the comments below, as well as your thoughts on what I've said here. - Let's chat there!

Oh, and please Like this article to let me know you enjoyed it - thank you!

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About the author

I'm studying an integrated Masters degree in Adult and Child nursing at the University of Southampton. I'm passionate about both of these fields, and am interested in finding out more about the role of dual field nurses in today’s society. I'm a student representative for my cohort at university, and also a student ambassador for the RCN. I prevously volunteered at a special school for disabled children and at a day centre for disabled adults and the elderly which sparked my passion for nursing.

    • Matt Farrah
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Richard Gill
  • 1
  • 6105

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    • Emma Keane 2 years ago
      Emma Keane
    • Emma Keane
      2 years ago

      Hi Emily, Great Piece, very insightful. There is alot of apprehension and anxiety that accompanies being a Student Nurse, never ... read more