As part of a £25m boost for nurses and other healthcare students, virtual training opportunities are set to be expanded, as well as the launch of a new national critical care qualification for qualified nurses.
Up to £15m of this funding will be allocated to English universities to rapidly expand simulated learning for nurses and other healthcare students this year.
It is designed to provide flexibility in training during the pandemic and could include the use of virtual reality (VR) technology, manikins and simulation models, role play and digital devices such as smartphones, tablets or computers.
These all combine to allow nursing students to practice their clinical skills in a safe environment, being able to train themselves on clinical procedures and simulate a realistic clinical setting with the support of experienced colleagues.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council have recently announced up to 300 of the 2,300 required clinical practice hours for nurses during their degree qualifications can now be completed in simulated environments due to the pandemic.
For the other £10m allocated funding, the UK Government is set to develop a new, nationally-recognised critical care qualification for qualified nurses, and which could also be accessed by a number of allied health professional roles.
Rolled out immediately, this qualification will be ready for use to help boost the number of people able to work in critical care.
Helen Whately, Minister for Care, said: “We are committed to training more nurses for the NHS and supporting professional development, and this £25 million investment will provide more innovative training opportunities for nurses.
“Whilst there is no substitute for face to face training on wards, simulated training is a vital part of the curriculum and provides a safe space for students to develop their skills.
“Thanks to our investment, more nursing and other healthcare students will be able to benefit from the latest innovations and new technologies to better support their learning at this time.
“The funding will also recognise our critical care nurses, who have played a crucial role during this pandemic, with a new nationally recognised qualification.”
Professor Mark Radford, Chief Nurse at Health Education England, added: “We welcome this support on simulation hours from the NMC in support of students, which will build on universities’ existing expertise in the education of healthcare workers for the NHS and social care.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, we recognise and very much value the massive contribution of our students and universities, along with all NHS staff. This further investment will directly support students to further their studies and qualify.
“Working with critical care organisations, we have rapidly designed new innovative education options to provide additional support to the NHS.
“It’s vital that we look for as many diverse and flexible routes into training as possible, and this announcement will help make the most of the technology available to support nurses on that journey.”