A cohort of 78 nursing and allied health professional (AHP) students are taking part in a three-day induction programme at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust (NCIC) this week, to prepare them for placements in hospitals and community teams in the area.

As part of the response to COVID-19, nursing and AHP students across the country that are in their second and third year 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. 

Georgia Wright, Deputy Chief Nurse at NCIC, gave everyone a warm welcome during the induction, and said: “We’re hugely grateful to the students for choosing to come here and for their commitment to helping during these unprecedented times.

“It’s a period of massive change in the NHS. We’re continuing to respond to the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic, and we’re also working to get services back in place and ensure they can operate safely going forward. The students will be vital to this, ensuring the right staffing is in place as the services start to see more patients.”

Peter Skilton was among the third year physiotherapy students and said: “It’s nice to be joining the Trust and finding out where I’ll be helping out. I’m looking forward to the challenge and am keen to put my skills into practice.”

Caitlin Rose, originally from Northern Ireland, has been studying physiotherapy at University of Cumbria and said, “I think it’s a great opportunity for us to get experience and I’m looking forward to helping out.”

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 and AHPs.”

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 appreciation Richard Ferris, from Leave a Light On, has coordinated lunch and refreshments 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.

 The Nursing and Midwifery Council and the Health and Care Professions Council have 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 the Trust.

The cohort taking part in this week’s induction is made up of students from University of Cumbria, Manchester Metropolitan University, Middlesex University, Northumbria University, University of Central Lancashire, Keele University and Plymouth University. It includes students from both adult and paediatric nursing, midwives, operating department practitioner, physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

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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