Practice Placement Guidance

Information for Education Providers - Impact of COVID-19 on Practice Placements

Since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic CORU has recognised the challenges encountered by some educators delivering CORU approved professional education and training programmes. CORU has undertaken research to understand the specific challenges facing practice placements.

Following this research, and feedback from stakeholders, the CORU Education Committee and Registration Boards, this Information for Education Providers - Impact of COVID-19 on Practice Placements document has been developed. It provides guidance into how Education Providers may approach adapting their education programmes, while also ensuring they continue to meet the Criteria and Standards.

CORU recognises that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to the challenges associated with practice placement during COVID-19 restrictions. CORU has consistently advised all educators that there is flexibility in how the criteria and standards are met. Therefore, this document is not prescriptive, but instead contains examples that may be beneficial and that educators may wish to refer to. This document will be reviewed as the post-pandemic situation evolves to ensure it continues to offer timely information to Education Providers.

Information for Education Providers - Impact of COVID-19 on Practice Placements

Virtual and Student Placements during COVID-19 References and Academic Articles

Practice Placement during and following COVID-19 restrictions - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

These frequently asked questions are designed to support you as programme teams and students along with placement providers and practice educators to support and engage in practice placement effectively during and following the COVID-19 restrictions.

1. Are the CORU Criteria and Standards of Proficiency for health and social care professions the same during this COVID-19 period?

Yes, all the Registration Boards Criteria for Education and Training Programmes and Standards of Proficiency for the profession are still required – including total number of practice placement hours, range and type of placements required.  The Criteria ensures that approved programmes consistently deliver graduates who have achieved the Standards of Proficiency. However, Education Providers are able to adapt how these are delivered while ensuring students can attain the Standards of Proficiency. This may be different to how they demonstrated meeting the Criteria and Standards in their original approval application or most recent monitoring application. Providers can make adaptations to their programmes. In doing so they should ensure that programmes continue to meet the Board’s requirements.

2. What is the role of the Education Provider in ensuring that placement hours are met?

Education Providers are responsible for ensuring the Registration Board Criteria and Standards of Proficiency are met within practice placement. They are also responsible for ensuring that the minimum hours, range, type of practice placement are achieved, and placement reflects the current practice and demands of the profession aligned to the Criteria and Standards of Proficiency.

3. Can we use innovative practices to complete placement hours?

Yes, CORU recognises that the COVID-19 pandemic is presenting challenges for some educators delivering CORU approved professional education and training programmes, including for practice placement activity. The information document offers some sample ideas of the onsite, offsite, online, and reflective activities that may be integrated into practice placement.

The appropriateness of these activities is dependent on the practice of the profession, the context of the service where practice placement is being provided and of the individual needs of service users. Education Providers are best placed to determine the suitability of the example activities. It continues to be the responsibility of Education Providers to demonstrate how the programme meets the Criteria and Standards and students attain the Standards of Proficiency. This continues to be the requirement where an Education Provider chooses to adapt practice placement arrangements or adopt innovative practice placement activities.

4. Students have been offered placement hours by an agency in their locality. Will this meet the Registration Board requirements?

It is a requirement for the Education Provider to have a set of requirements for the selection of practice placement to ensure quality learning experiences for students that reflect the normal context and environment of practice. If you, as the Education Provider, determine that the agency identified by the student, meets the set of requirements for the selection of practice placements, there is no apparent reason for not permitting the student take up the placement. 

You will be required to work in partnership with this agency and have written agreements in place.  All criteria associated with the selection of Practice Placement and the Placement Education Team must be met. 

You will be required to demonstrate meeting all criteria and ensuring that Standards of Proficiency are met in the event that your programme is undergoing an Approval or Monitoring Activity.

5. The Placement Provider is encouraging their staff to work from home. If a student, who is on placement at this site, also works from home, will this impact the programme meeting the Registration Board’s requirements?

In the event that students are requested to carry out practice placement remotely, this will need approval from the Education Provider. As an Education Provider you will need to consider the Standards of Proficiencies that students were expected to meet while on this particular placement and if this placement will provide the required learning opportunities for the student and if appropriate supervision is available.

Will these Standards of Proficiencies continue to be met if placement is remote?  If not, how will they be attained? 

Will remote placement assist the student meet other Standards of Proficiencies in respect of working of technology and/or communication skills?

If the output of placement is changing, have you communicated and informed the Practice Education Team? 

6. Can I make changes to the programme to facilitate students in early academic years?

The Education Provider can make changes to the programme to facilitate students continue with their studies during a pandemic. The Education Provider can consider bringing forward the academic elements of the programme. The Education Provider may also avail of extended placement opportunities when offered to them. The Education Provider should at all times consider how the theory and practice elements of the programme are integrated to ensure that the those who successfully complete the programme meet the standards of proficiency. 

7. Agencies who do not normally provide placement for my profession have offered to accommodate students on placement, is it okay to accept?

The Education Provider must ensure that all agencies and placement providers meet the set of requirements of the selection of placement. The placement site must reflect the current practice and demand of the profession.

The Education Provider needs to acknowledge that the current practice and demands of the profession may have changed significantly and this must be reflected in their requirements for selecting placement sites. 

8. Students are finding it challenging to understand the requirement to complete Practice Placement hours during a pandemic

Communications between the Education Provider, Practice Education Teams and Students is critical during these times. The Criteria provides for clear and explicit processes to be in place for students to raise concerns in relation to their practice education and access appropriate supports. These processes may need to be highlighted during the pandemic and communicated to students.   

It is also important that the roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders are outlined to students, including that of the regulator.

9. What kinds of activities are acceptable as part of the practice placement?

During the period of COVID-19 restrictions and following this period it may be challenging to source conventional practice placements for students. Placements may include components of onsite, offsite, online and reflection activities provided Education Providers ensure these activities meet the Registration Board’s Criteria or Education and Training Programmes, and ensures students achieve the Standards of Proficiency. It is possible that placements may include, but are not limited to, multiple placement settings, or involve opportunities to align with increased workforce needs related to COVID-19 restrictions. Student projects co-created by Education Providers with Placement Providers may also be an option to form a component of placement activities under supervision by a Practice Educator, ensuring these activities continue to enable students to attain the Standards of Proficiency.

The CORU information document offers some sample ideas of the onsite, offsite, online, and reflective activities that may be integrated into practice placement.

10. What if practice placements are suspended or cancelled?

In 2020, Education Providers experienced a high volume of cancellations and suspensions of practice placement sites due to the COVID-19 pandemic. CORU communicated to its registered members early in the COVID-19 emergency, encouraging all professionals, working in partnership with each other and people using services, to use professional judgement to assess risk to deliver safe care informed by any relevant guidance, values and principles set out in your Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics.

It is anticipated that the need for social distancing and other public health advice related to the COVID-19 pandemic will continue beyond 2021, with implications for placement, especially for non-graduating year placements. Education providers in 2020 needed to find solutions for suspended or cancelled placements. It is likely this is a challenging situation that will continue during and following COVID-19 restrictions. 

Education Providers may find it helpful to review their existing database to identify alterative locations for placement—including lapsed or historical placement locations. This may also include close liaison with existing contacts of Practice Educators/Supervisors/Tutors to identify alternative models of placement. It may be the case that education providers may still need to prioritise the cohort(s) within a programme that require placement.

11. What if there is a shortage of Practice Educators in placement sites for students, even on a remote basis, due to the COVID-19 restrictions?

The Programme Team is responsible for ensuring students attain the practice placement supervision required to meet the Standards of Proficiency. Ideally, Practice Educators are directly involved in supervision of students on placement. However, CORU recognise that due to the COVID-19 restrictions, there may be a shortage of Practice Educators available, a situation that may continue following the restrictions. Through liaison with an existing database of Practice Educators/Teachers/Tutors, Programme Teams may identify additional Practice Educators. In addition, professional bodies or larger agencies may also be able to offer some support to identify additional Practice Educators, making the crucial case to their members of the importance of the Practice Educator role to support students during their practice placement.

12. What if a supervisor/practice teachers/practice tutors is working from home?

When planning and/or adapting placements Education Providers must consider how students will be supervised and, if applicable, how supervision of students can continue to be met remotely. This may require the addition of software and/or resources that need to be made available to students. In addition, students, under the supervision of the Practice Educator, should undertake training on such software/technology/resources to ensure they can fully participate and meet their standards of proficiency and maximise the supervision experience. Supervision must allow the assessment of students achievement of the Standards of Proficiency.

13. What if a placement provision does not have the required space to maintain social distancing when students are on placement?

Students are not required to be in the placement site for all their placement hours. Staff rotas may be in place to maintain a safe number of staff within a placement site. A student may be included in such rotas while on placement within a placement site. A component of their placement may also include working on a project, virtual case studies and accessing offsite activities. View some sample offsite, online or reflective activities that may be integrated into a placement provided the placement experience enables students to attain the Standards of Proficiency.

14. How can Practice Educators meet the requirements for supervision of students, normally conducted face-to-face and/or on a one-to-one basis?

Flexible supervision arrangements can be negotiated using technology (e.g. Zoom, Skype, MS Teams) during the time of COVID-19 restrictions. The supervision would need to align and maintain the normal regularity of supervision meetings. The purpose of maintaining regular contact on placement would remain to assess and monitor student progress and learning aligned to the programme learning outcomes.

15. If a placement site doesn’t have enough Practice Educators to facilitate students or Practice Educators have been reallocated during this COVID-19 period, how can the site continue to offer practice placements to students?

CORU recognises that we are in unprecedented and emergency period during and even following the COVID-19 restriction period. Practice Educators are an integral part of the practice placement process. It is acknowledged that Practice Educators should be directly supporting and supervising students while they undergo their placement. On graduation, health and social care students will register and join their chosen profession as autonomous practitioners. It is therefore critical for public protection and the profession, that students are facilitated to learn and practice safely under supervision on practice/clinical placement.Education Providers are encouraged to work with key personnel and management at practice placement sites to prioritise identifying and supporting Practice Educators to undertake this key role. It is widely recognized, and may be mentioned to prospective Practice Educators, it is a very meaningful and fulfilling role to support the next generation of professionals.

Active liaison and regular communication between Education Providers and placement sites should also be maintained to ensure existing Practice Educators feel supported in their role and new Practice Educators receive the information required to be effective in the role.