Vet nurses pulled out of placements as social distancing measures ramp up

The Veterinary Nurses Council has agreed to temporarily suspend placement requirements for student vet nurses and training programmes as several universities have raised concern over their safety.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Veterinary Nurses Council said it made the decision to comply with UK Government advice to reduce the transmission of Covid-19 through social distancing measures.

Julie Dugmore, RCVS director of veterinary nursing, said: “We have been in discussion with veterinary nursing education providers regarding a number of concerns they have raised regarding the support for student veterinary nurses and the progression with their licence to practise qualifications.

These include concerns that under the current circumstances, student veterinary nurses would not be able to fulfil their clinical placement requirements, as well as not being able to undertake the required assessments.

“Furthermore, institutions offering veterinary nurse education would not be able to continue their programme of approving and quality monitoring Training Practices.

“Therefore, the following temporary arrangements and guidance have been approved by both the Veterinary Nurses (VN) Education Committee and VN Council.

“We ask that all student veterinary nurses, veterinary nursing education centres and Training Practices read the guidance.”

Temporary changes

The college said several universities have already asked student veterinary nurses to withdraw from their clinical placements.

However, there are that as a result, many final-year students will be unable to complete the required number of hours in order to complete their programme and graduate.

There have also been concerns raised over the completion of the RCVS Day One Skills for Veterinary Nurses (DOS) should students be unable to attend their clinical placements.

RCVS Day One Competences and Day One Skills for Veterinary Nurses set out the minimum essential requirements expected of all student nurses to have met when they register, to ensure they are safe and competent to practise on day one, in whichever area of the profession they start to work.

As a result, universities and awarding organisations have requested a degree of flexibility around vet nursing registration rules and the completion of the RCVS Day One Skills programme.

Will I still need to complete my placement?

A spokesman for the RCVS said: “We recognise that it should not be compulsory for students to complete clinical placements within the next eight weeks, after which the situation will be reviewed. This will apply to students in any year of their studies.

“We recognise that for students in their final year of study, it may be difficult for them to make up the hours of clinical placement missed prior to graduation.

“Universities and colleges should continue to support students and explore alternatives, however, any shortfall relative to the requirements should not be a barrier to completion of the programme.”

However, for BSc students in years 1 to 3 of their studies and FdSc students in years 1 and 2 of their studies, the college expects there will be sufficient time for them to make up the number of hours prior to completing the programme.

“However, we will review this as the Covid-19 pandemic progresses,” the spokesman added.

Student veterinary nurses will still be required to complete the Day One Skills for Veterinary Nurses in their totality as these seek to assure competency at the point of registration.

Where a student has completed the Day One Skills in less than the minimum 1,800 hours required, the situation will be assessed on a case-by-case basis on application to register.

Students are also encouraged to participate in desk-based activities and use video-conferencing technology to complete training where possible.

“Where remote training practice approval has taken place, we would expect a follow-up visit in person once the coronavirus outbreak is under control, in line with the prevailing government advice,” the RCVS clarified.

Assessments

The RCVS examinations manager and chairman of VN education committee will review proposals for changes to the assessment.

There had been some concern regarding the number of examiners required for OSCE assessments in light of announcements from some organisations that are not allowing staff members to attend large gatherings.

The college advised that universities and awarding organisations may need to explore changes to the current format of the unseen and Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) used for assessment of the RCVS Day One Competences.

Universities and awarding organisations will still be required to assure the RCVS, through subsequent analysis and evaluation, that all their assessments were sufficiently met Day One Competences and Skills.