Nursing Students Fill Gaps as Pandemic Rages

November 16, 2020 by Christen Aldrich

Filed under COVID-19 for Employers, COVID-19 for the Workforce

Last modified November 17, 2020

According to this article by MedPage Today, nursing students are still being encouraged to join the front lines as the pandemic surges through the U.S., though some program leaders aren’t going along.

Back in June, MedPage Today reported that in official guidelines, nursing leaders encouraged students to enter clinical settings, in contrast to guidance for medical students from the Association of American Medical Colleges at that time. Many in both nursing and hospital leadership continue to advocate for that plan. In late July, a new guidance written for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) by Tener Goodwin Veenema, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, was more cautious about recommending that nursing students participate in COVID-19 care.

“It may be advisable, in the interest of student safety, to limit student direct care of known or suspected cases of COVID-19 infection until better epidemiologic data are available,” the guidance states. “For now, other than limiting direct care of COVID-19 patients, clinical students should continue their roles as part of the care team.” What has resulted is variation in policies at nursing programs and their clinical partners, and in support from nursing leadership.

The pandemic has worsened in many areas since those July guidelines were published, and some nursing schools are already helping students become “workforce extenders,” as students are described in the AACN guidance. Other systems could soon follow, as the COVID-19 surge has hit the nursing workforce especially hard. Many nurses have retired or left clinical settings to work in safer, less traumatic settings.

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