The Experiences of Practice Educator Facilitators and Academics Supporting Adult Nursing Students Completing a Paid Placement During the COVID-19
The first phase of the COVID-19 global pandemic had a significant impact on nursing students studying in the United Kingdom, heralding changes to every aspect of their lives. Practice Education Facilitators (PEFs) and academics had to respond quickly and work in close collaboration with their wider system partners, Health Education England (HEE) and the Department of Health (DH). Changes in emergency measures implemented by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) provided nursing students in their final six months of study with the opportunity of completing a paid placement. The objectives of this study were to explore the experiences of academics and PEFs supporting the nursing students and to identify examples of good practice. A phenomenological approach was used seeking to understand the lived experience of PEFs and academics within one case study site. A purposeful sample of ten participants was chosen using semi-structured interviews and focus groups to collect the data via a virtual platform. The results highlighted three themes: communication, innovative learning opportunities and the importance of support mechanisms. PEFs and academics reported how they had increased their competence and confidence in using virtual platforms. They suggested that changes they implemented during the pandemic to support staff and students would become embedded in their future practice. This study provides insights into how PEFs and academics transformed their practice to support students and clinicians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Having robust virtual platforms for the development of continuing learning opportunities and enhanced communication approaches across health and academic environments was essential to this success.
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