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Student nurses could be fast-tracked to qualification to tackle Covid-19

A plan to ensure the early registration of nursing interns is being discussed.

Image: Shutterstock/David Herraez Calzada

HUNDREDS OF NURSING students could be placed on the nursing register early under plans being drawn up to tackle the Covid-19 crisis. 

One document, compiled by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) and seen by TheJournal.ie, suggests that nursing interns across the country could become registered nurses as soon as July – several weeks before planned registration dates. 

The document states that one proposal is to “advance the recognition of attainment of competence of the current 4th year student nurses and midwives for entry to the Register in July 2020 to support the COVID19 staffing issues of the HSE instead of the planned registration time in September/October”.

It stated that the NMBI, which manages the register of nurses and midwives, was “asked by the Department of Health and the HSE to explore the possibilities for adding student nurses and student midwives to the workforce at an early date to support the response to the national pandemic”.

Currently, there are 5,364 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland, while 174 people have died from the virus. 

Any such proposal involving student nurses would need the backing of all colleges where nursing is taught before it could be agreed upon. 

If agreed, it would mean current nursing interns could complete their courses between eight and 10 weeks early. 

“Once final theoretical assessments are complete,” the document states, “and students have been assessed as clinically competent and meeting the required standards, students may be recommended for registration as a nurse or midwife with NMBI”.

“In the context of this emergency, colleges and Director of Nursing/Midwifery will advance the recognition of clinical assessments to enable students to be registered as nurses and midwives in July 2020,” it continues. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for the NMBI said that “the specifics of a proposal to support fourth year students are currently under consideration by the 13 Higher Educations Institutes and the HSE”.

“Our collective aim is to agree a mechanism that will not compromise competency. We hope to come to an agreement and provide agreed guidance to final year students shortly,” the spokesperson said. 

Some medical students in Ireland have graduated early to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, even as concerns grow about the level of protection provided to healthcare workers. 

A significant portion of all Covid-19 infections are healthcare workers, while the government and HSE has defended the provision of PPE to staff. 

Neither the Department of Health or the HSE responded to a request for comment in time for publication. 

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