With the rising numbers of people infected with the coronavirus, more and more people are being admitted to hospitals. Many medical students and nursing students are saying online that they would be happy to help out. One lecturer received one thousand replies to her LinkedIn call for ‘more people on the work floor’.
For this reason, the Association of Nurses and Carers in the Netherlands (V&VN) has stated that student nurses should be allowed to lend a helping hand if they are about to graduate and that former nurses should be allowed to help out if their professional credentials have only just expired. “Social media are full of comments by people offering their services,” says V&VN spokesman Jacek Magala. “It would be a terrible shame if we couldn’t take them up on that offer.”
Is it ethical to ask students to join the fight against a potentially dangerous virus? “We’re not sending representatives to universities of applied sciences to select candidates for ‘compulsory volunteering’,” says Magala. “But if students actually volunteer, we’d like to be able to use their services.”
He emphasises that he isn’t talking about students who have just attended their first lecture. “We’re talking about advanced students who are about to graduate. And even so, they must be supervised properly or perhaps be asked to take a very brief crash course. The Health and Youth Inspectorate has yet to give the go-ahead, but we are fairly confident they will.”
The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences is checking whether its member universities are indeed taking the initiative to allow their students to help out and if so, what kind of considerations they are taking into account. “Needless to say, the students’ safety is paramount,” says the Association’s spokesperson, Eva Kloosterman.
For its part, the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) has argued that the rules governing the credentials of healthcare professionals should be temporarily relaxed. The Association would like to be able to draft in residents who are not yet fully qualified doctors, but who do have some hands-on experience.
“Relaxing rules may save lives in this emergency,” says KNMG chair René Héman. He’s in favour of letting medical students who are about to graduate provide non-complex care if they have recently obtained hands-on experience.
Recent experience is important for nurses too. “We won’t randomly draft in former nurses who last set foot inside a hospital twenty years ago,” says nurses’ association spokesperson Magala. “But someone who retired a year ago still has a lot of valuable knowledge and experience.”
This afternoon, an emergency meeting will be held at the Ministry of Health, where V&VN and KNMG will discuss the drafting-in of medical students, student nurses and former healthcare professionals.
In Groningen medical students are already contributing to the battle against coronavirus. They have set up a child-minding service for the children of parents who are working at the Groningen Academic Medical Centre (UMCG) or the Martini Hospital.