Cardiff Uni nursing students to do exams alongside placements due to time lost on COVID frontlines

They are being asked to complete twelve months of work in a six month period

Cardiff University’s final year nursing students feel they are being disadvantaged in their course after working in the NHS during the pandemic.

Assignments for the nursing course were suspended during the height of the pandemic while students worked for the NHS. The University has extended the course by eight weeks, however students have told The Cardiff Tab that this still leaves them expected to complete twelve months of work in a six month period. Students say this is placing them under “crippling” stress.

The academic year for nursing students is normally split into periods of academic work and periods of placements in hospitals. However, having lost time during the pandemic, students are now being asked to complete academic work alongside their placements.

A spokesperson for the cohort told The Cardiff Tab that the group are incredibly burnt out after COVID, saying “many of us did not see our small children for over three months.”

They added: “We are being asked to write a dissertation, do an exam, presentation and our portfolios, all whilst working 37.5 hours unpaid in our placements. This does not include the 30+ hours of paid work that many of us must have to do in order to feed our families.”

Other universities have introduced measures to mitigate the strain placed on their nursing students. For example at Southampton, the dissertation and exams have been replaced with one small assignment, and at Manchester, a 2000 word essay and the dissertation have been cancelled.

Nursing students are also struggling with the closure of libraries, as some have no internet access at home or have young children.

A student told The Cardiff Tab that the negative effect this strain would put on their academic work would likely leave them unable to do a postgraduate degree.

One nursing student told The Cardiff Tab: “The university is willing to put immeasurable amounts of pressure on us during our placements by expecting us to do a dissertation alongside it. Mental health is an aspect we all have to consider when caring for our patients, so how is this being so quickly dismissed when talking about their very own students?”

Another added: “We have lost colleagues and friends to COVID and mental health. Some of us even had to nurse them. Why is it that nurses and nursing students are repeatedly taken advantage of?”

The cohort are currently going through the university’s complaints process but say that so far their concerns have been “dismissed”.

Professor David Whitaker, Head of the School of Healthcare Sciences told The Cardiff Tab: “The majority of our final year nursing students opted to support the NHS’s rallying call and undertook paid deployment during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are extremely grateful to them. We respect their bravery and commitment in doing so.

“To account for this time away from their formal studies and to ensure they’re still able to meet our robust academic standards, we have produced a revised timeline and extended our academic year to provide the equivalent opportunity for theoretical study and supervised clinical placement.

“For issues of concern, like a lack of internet and library access, all students are able to seek additional support through our Student Support services.

“We recognise there are concerns from some students who have been impacted and we have taken steps to try to address them promptly.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• One way systems and limited seating: what Cardiff looks like right now

• New Cardiff student accommodation won’t be ready to move into until 2021

• ‘Wednesday afternoons will no longer be reserved for sports’: Cardiff Uni announces