Student nurses have been hit worst by Covid-19; we need the brunt of King’s support

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Roar writer Danielle Jones argues that mismanaged timetables and placement rotas have left student nurses underprepared for the coming year.

We need to support student nurses, not make their lives as hard as possible. Thanks to Covid-19, most university degrees have been disrupted, with the majority being moved online. However, no degree has been more disrupted than Nursing and Midwifery.

Student nurses need to complete 2300 hours of theory and 2300 hours of placement (unpaid work in a hospital or community environment, following a strict rota) to graduate. Thanks to Covid, first-year nurses had their second placement of the year cancelled, leaving us all short of hours we need to complete our degrees.

Nursing students have a longer academic year to facilitate both teaching and placements, and King’s decided to use the extra placement time to teach second-year modules via e-learning.

While this meant that student nurses weren’t left in a summer-Covid limbo, it still leaves us in a tricky situation. We have a longer gap between teaching and examinations with placement in between. Working 40+ hour weeks doesn’t leave a lot of time to revise.

To add insult to injury, the announcement of our next placements was delayed. We were informed that we would be going out on placement by the end of September to allow us to catch up on the hours we missed last year. While this is completely necessary, King’s pushed back giving us our placement allocations until Monday the 14th of September.

Rotas are supposed to be supplied to student nurses at least two weeks in advance so that we can plan our days on and off. The two-week time period is critical for those with families and jobs who need to organise childcare and their hours. Allocating placements two weeks in advance leaves us scrambling to contact our wards to find out when we start and what our rotas are.

Many unions and nursing groups have pushed for fairer allocations of rotas to improve student wellbeing. Progress has been made in the last few years and most Nursing students receive their rotas at least two weeks in advance. While every student nurse is acutely aware of the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, the current situation has set us all back.

A Nursing degree is incredibly tough, necessitating the juggling of academic work, the usual hardships of university life, and placement hours all while dealing with the knowledge that we deal with real patients and their loved ones. We should be doing everything we can to make sure placements run smoothly, and it feels as though King’s has shoved placement accommodations to the back of their minds across summer.

Furthermore, second-year Adult Nursing students have been informed that all classes will be online. While most students have the opportunity to stay home this semester for online learning, student nurses have no choice but to find accommodation near to the university so we can attend placement. It’s truly terrifying to be sent out on placement, which for most means using public transport, while it’s considered “too dangerous” for most students to attend classes on campus.

I have had basic training to use personal protective equipment (PPE), but I only feel confident in keeping myself safe due to volunteering across the summer. I’m terrified that my colleagues won’t be able to keep themselves safe due to a lack of knowledge about the PPE we’re expected to wear around our patients.

I haven’t even been fit tested, so if a patient suffers a cardiac arrest I’m expected to stand back and do nothing, which goes against everything I’ve been taught and every instinct I have as someone who signed up to help people.

As I said, every student nurse and midwife is acutely aware of the impact of the pandemic. Everything has changed and there’s no end in sight. But someone needs to support us at this incredibly scary time so that we can support our patients and enhance our knowledge as much as possible.

I really hope that King’s ensures we get rotas at least two weeks in advance in future and actively finds ways to support student nurses and midwives while we go out on placement.

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