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Over fifty nursing students join the NHS in north Cumbria to help respond to COVID-19

A cohort of 53 third year nursing students have joined North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust this week as part of a national response to COVID-19.

Nursing students across the country that are in their last six months of training have been given the option to undertake a clinical placement for the period, so that they can continue their programme while contributing to clinical services.

The students from adult, paediatric nursing and midwives are taking part in a three-day induction programme) this week, to prepare them for placements in hospitals in the area.

As part of this, the Nursing and Midwifery Council has also agreed to suspend the usual supernumerary status for students, and the students have instead been offered the opportunity to commence temporary formal contracts and take up paid NHS healthcare positions within Trusts.

The cohort taking part in this week’s induction at NCIC is made up of students from University of Cumbria, Liverpool John Moores University, and Edgehill University, and includes students from both adult and paediatric nursing, and midwives.

Talking to the students during the induction, Anna Stabler, Interim Chief Nurse at NCIC, said: “I want to say a huge thank you to all of you for choosing to come forward to support the NHS, and helping us to overcome the challenges currently facing us. I appreciate that it’s a very strange and worrying time – but remember that we’re all in this together.”

Amy Barclay, Natasha Skelton, Melissa Goldrich, Chloe Cooper and Emilia Harwood are all students attending the induction, and said: “We’re all very proud of what we’re doing and we’re looking forward to helping out. We’re both excited and a little nervous, as most of us have been exposed to healthcare environments in some way during the pandemic, but obviously we can’t quite be sure what we’re going into at this stage.”

Gill Long, Head of Nursing, Clinical Education and Practice Development at NCIC, said: “We recognise that these are unprecedented times, and hope that by staying connected to the students and ensuring they are able to raise any concerns and anxieties they have, we can develop learning that meets their needs and enables them to provide the best possible hospital experience for our patients.

“We want to ensure that the students are given a positive experience during the placement, and hope that by doing this they will consider staying with us when they complete their placements and register as nurses in September.”

Dr John Howarth is the Strategic COVID-19 Lead for NCIC and also welcomed the students to the Trust at the induction event. Talking to the students about the impact of COVID-19 on the NHS, he said: “This is the first time that we’ve faced something like this in the country, and we’re all having to adapt and think differently, both in our work lives and social lives.

“At the Trust, we’re doing everything we can to protect our staff, and this includes giving all staff PPE to wear, even in non-COVID areas, and we use social distancing as much as possible throughout all of our sites.”

“There was fantastic preparation by the Trust in response to the pandemic, and it has enabled us to cope well and stay within our capacity. It has made me proud to work for the NHS.”

The induction event has been taking place at the Sands Centre in Carlisle, and special social distancing measures have been implemented throughout the process, to ensure the students stay at least two metres away from each other.

The local community has also been keen to welcome the students to their placements, and as a token of its appreciation has provided lunch, refreshments and cakes for the students throughout the process.

Throughout the placements, students will also be able to learn about the many development opportunities on offer at NCIC, in the hope that they will choose to stay at the Trust when they complete their training in September.

Second year nursing students will also be invited to spend 80 percent of their time in clinical practice and 20 percent in academic study during the emergency period – this time will be remunerated and again recognises the significant contribution our students can make to the healthcare workforce at a time of national crisis.

A similar approach is also being taken with students currently studying in allied health care professions who go on to qualify as paramedics, radiographers, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

These students are being drafted into placement on an emergency rota basis. However, it is still voluntary and they can opt-out if they choose.

It’s estimated that this approach could increase the NHS workforce in Cumbria and North Lancashire by an additional 352 student nurses.

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