Practice learning experiences are a key component of healthcare education programmes for nurses, midwives and allied health professions, in some cases, making up 50% of student’s overall curriculum. Collaborative working between universities, further education colleges and practice placement providers across health and care settings is required, as is, careful management to enable students from a range of NMAHP programmes to gain appropriate practice learning experiences. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 saw a disruption to NMAHP students’ practice learning across Scotland.
Following the publication of The Scottish Government NES commissioned ‘Provision of NMAHP Placements in the 2020-21 Academic Session’, a national strategic group (RAPOG) was established in line with one of the recommendations of the report which was to “Set up a small rapid action group chaired by Scottish Government and NHS Education for Scotland with Council of Deans for Health Scotland to co-develop mitigating actions for placement capacity management and to advise Scottish Government in the event of a potential second wave of COVID-19.”
To co-ordinate, be a conduit for representatives to bring information, share good practice and avoid duplication with a view to establishing a shared understanding of what is happening, any issues arising and to take any national action that is required in relation to maintaining NMAHP practice learning experiences for all NMAHP students during the COVID-19 period.
The group first met on the 15th September 2020 and will meet monthly to have national oversight of NMAHP practice learning experiences across Scotland and consider the potential risk of NMAHP students not being able to complete their programmes on time due to COVID-19.
A virtual/digitally enhanced placement is one in which the student is able to use digital platforms (e.g. Near Me) to engage with patients, practitioners, or their named practice supervisor, practice assessor or practice educator. A Short Life Working Group, with representation from education, practice placement providers and NHS Education for Scotland (NES) on behalf of the Nursing and Midwifery National Strategic Group for Practice Learning and Allied Health Professions Practice-Based Learning Stakeholder Group have produced the following guidelines:
The guidance document below was developed by a Short Life Working Group, with representation from education, practice placement providers and NHS Education for Scotland (NES) on behalf of the Nursing and Midwifery National Strategic Group for Practice Learning and AHP practice-based Learning Stakeholder group in response to recommendation (i) of the Scottish Government Commissioned NES Report ‘Provision of NMAHP placements in the 2020-21 Academic Session’. Recommendation (i) states ‘work with universities and boards to develop a national approach to risk assessment processes and occupational health review processes for students.’
While very effort is made to keep this guidance document current students, university and practice provider colleagues should revisit the Scottish Government webpage at https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-individual-risk-assessment-for-the-workplace/ regularly as the guidance and associated COVID-age calculator may be revised if new research is reported that materially changes the balance of available evidence, as it will be kept automatically updated, without notifications of changes.
In March 2020, student nurses and midwives (excluding year 1) were given the opportunity to ‘opt in’ to a revised programme structure of extended paid placements to support the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students who chose to ‘opt in’ registered with the NES COVID-19 Accelerated Recruitment Portal (CARP) but allocations of placements remained the responsibility of universities in line with NMC emergency standards to ensure they achieved programme outcomes. This was a complex process and required close collaboration between NES, Scottish Government, universities and placement providers. This paper provides an overview of the lessons learned from NES facilitated debrief sessions.
Last updated: 19/10/2020