Student nurses at an English university have been left stressed and angry after a clerical error has delayed their registration.
Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) has informed its student nurses that a mistake on behalf of the university means they are all short of 300 clinical placement hours.
“Understandably everyone including myself is extremely distraught and disappointed with the news”
Third-year student nurse
For the around 200 final-year students at CCCU, this means a delay in them completing their studies and joining the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register.
The shortfall is down to the fact that students had been participating in reflection hours each week in lieu of some placement time to qualify for NMC registration.
This was a measure the NMC brought in during the Covid-19 pandemic to alleviate the strain of placements on busy NHS trusts. It was a measure the regulator withdrew in January 2022.
CCCU, however, continued to instruct its students that they could perform reflection hours instead of placements up until yesterday, when it informed them of the mistake.
As a result, hundreds of CCCU students on nursing courses will now have to complete an additional eight weeks of placements, totalling roughly 300 hours. For final year students, this news was devastating.
One final-year adult nursing student, who wished not to be named, told Nursing Times that she and her peers were left “extremely distraught” and “disappointed” when they received the news.
“I started in 2020, finished my other placements in July, and passed everything else,” she said.
“I was just waiting for my results to be sent, and then it would be my registration. But, then, obviously the university realised it messed up.
“We had been doing some placement hours, and then 10 hours of written reflective work, which was in line with what the NMC published when we first started. But they changed that guidance, and CCCU seemed to continue doing it.
“Now, we’re eight weeks behind and we’ve been doing 10 hours of reflective work each week which meant nothing. Everyone is absolutely livid.”
The news was broken to the students via an email, seen by Nursing Times, from Paula Kersten, pro vice-chancellor and dean of CCCU’s faculty of medicine, health and social care.
Excerpt of email sent to CCCU students
We are writing to inform you that, unfortunately, we have uncovered an error in the placement hours counter in your course for which we are extremely sorry. It was previously accepted during the period of the NMC’s Covid-related emergency standards that reflection hours could be included in your total number of placement hours.
Regrettably, it appears the course should have reverted back and removed the allowance of reflection hours, but this hasn’t happened. We recognise that this will come as a shock to you and are deeply sorry for this error which we recognise is significant.
In order to ensure that you are able to qualify as a registered nurse you will be required to undertake approximately an additional eight weeks of placement. Consequently, your exam board results have been delayed. We have reported this error to the NMC.
We are urgently developing an action plan to remedy this error including the practical consequences, financial compensation for the delay to your employment start dates, and what we will do to secure your current job offers. You will be able to graduate in the January ceremony as planned, subject to you having passed all your modules.
The student nurse explained that she and many others in her cohort had jobs lined up and had made other commitments on the basis that they would be joining the register this September.
She said she was now unsure about her job, and extremely worried about paying for her flat.
“I’ve been paying rent for this place since the end of June, and was supposed to start soon as a band 4, and then move to band 5 [when I receive my NMC PIN],” she explained.
“I cannot afford to keep paying [the rent] until December when I get my band 5 paycheque.”
“We are offering wellbeing support wherever required”
She continued: “Our cohort was under the assumption that we had completed our university course, and were due to register as nurses with the NMC this September, as promised by the university.
“All of my classmates and I have secured jobs and were looking forward to starting our careers after three very longwinded and tiresome years training.
“Understandably everyone including myself is extremely distraught and disappointed with the news.”
A remote meeting for all affected students has been scheduled for Friday, 11 August. In her email, Ms Kersten said it would provide a chance to discuss the “practical consequences”.
Another final-year nursing student at CCCU impacted by the error told Nursing Times she was “devastated”.
She explained that she had secured a job offer with a hospital and moved to the area where it is based in preparation.
“Now I’m in danger of losing my job offer,” she added.
“For the additional placement I must go back to Medway, and I don’t have the financial ability to pay this rent and a second rent in Medway doing an unpaid placement for two months.
“In the same situation are probably most of the students and their families that got job offers in other areas.”
A CCCU spokesperson said: “Due to an error in our calculation of students’ clinical practice hours since the Covid pandemic, we have uncovered a shortfall in their completed placement hours. This has been reported to the NMC.”
They said the university had apologised to students and that it was meeting with them “as a matter of urgency to discuss the practical consequences”.
They said it was working with NHS trusts to try and protect job offers for final-year students and make it so they could complete their remaining placement hours with their future employers.
Students in other year groups should be able to make up the hours during the remainder of their studies, they said.
“The financial impact on students will be addressed and they will not be worse off financially as a result of any short delay,” said the spokesperson.
“We are also working with our NHS partners to secure job offers.
“Our intention is that students will complete any shortfall in hours with their future employer to mitigate the impact and ensure they are able to begin employment as soon as possible.
“We are offering wellbeing support wherever required.”
Earlier this year, CCCU was also in the news due to its midwifery course being stripped of NMC accreditation, a first for the regulator, following concerns about both the quality of education and clinical placements.