Training and adapting in a new world: SCPHN students

18 September 2020

Continuing from last issue’s ‘University Challenged’, SCPHN leads across the UK share how programmes are being delivered during the pandemic.*


The situation was similar to Cardiff, as outlined last issue: students’ anxieties were high as some courses were intermitted, learning was moved online, and new ways of delivering healthcare in the community were explored by healthcare providers.

Some students were redeployed, and others told to focus on the completion of academic work while community providers explored new ways of working and implemented new IT systems.

In English higher education institutions (HEIs) there were similar challenges in embracing new online technologies and considering how best students could meet their practice competencies.  

However, the English strategic overview was different. As pre-registration nurse placements were prioritised, many SCPHN courses needed to make locality-based decisions. Whether in Leeds or the East of England, the picture was one of uncertainty. However, this strengthened the relationships between providers and HEIs as they collaboratively and creatively made local decisions to support SCPHN students.

In response, our students have proven their resilience and their ability to adapt to, and engage with, different learning technologies, which may have taken years to develop if it were not for the pandemic.

As healthcare systems focus on acute care management, SCPHNs have never lost sight of the impact this has on children, young people and families. As parents and young people are furloughed, families confined to their homes and jobs lost – as the frontline of public health, SCPHNs are needed more than ever.

However, we are confident that the students that are qualifying now will be more than capable of supporting the next generations.  

Amanda Wagg, SCPHN course lead at Anglia Ruskin University; Nicola Draper-Jennings, SCPHN school nursing lead, Leeds Beckett University.


To support the projected impact of Covid-19 across Scotland, the decision was made by some local health boards to redeploy their SCPHN (health visiting) students back into clinical areas. Some SCPHN (HV) programmes were unaffected, as these were either due for completion, or the impact of Covid-19 was small and the programme flow supported students to complete them as per the original timescale. For some HEIs, however, it meant their programme had to be paused.

Individual HEIs worked with practice partners, practice areas and students to minimise any detriment to students. Now, HEIs and local health boards are in the ‘return phase’, where students have completed, resumed or are in the process of resuming their studies.  

It is evident that redeployed students have developed additional and transferable knowledge and skills in areas such as public health and leadership. It has also enabled students to develop their remote consulting skills using ‘Near Me’, NHS Scotland’s digital video conferencing technology.

During the ‘pause’, NHS Education for Scotland hosted a number of webinars, which also allowed students to further their knowledge and understanding of virtual and remote assessment and decision-making, including shared learning alongside multidisciplinary professionals. Furthermore, all students across the HEIs’ programmes have demonstrated resilience and innovation in relation to working safely with children, young people and families during this time.  

HEI teams have adapted teaching and assessment methods to meet the needs of students, comply with Covid-19 guidance and maintain the quality of the SCPHN (HV) programme. Adaptability was therefore required from all programme teams across Scotland, which has the potential to bring subsequent learning forward to support students on future programmes.

It is reassuring to HEIs that students have expressed that their time away from the programme has reaffirmed the reasons why they wanted to become a HV, and their desire and passion to complete their programme.  

During this time, the SCPHN programme leads across HEIs in Scotland have had the opportunity to meet regularly, and the peer support that generated has been invaluable, facilitating the sharing of experiences and learning. It also generated ideas and approaches for supporting the SCPHN students as they transition back to programmes and progress to completion.

While our learning from the experience is vast, it has reinforced that ongoing reflection and partnership working is central to progressive SCPHN education and practice during this period – and beyond.

Bernadette Bradley, Glasgow Caledonian University; Alison Hackett, University of Stirling; Debbie Wilson, Robert Gordon University; Emma Hay-Higgins, Robert Gordon University; Fiona Stuart, University of the West of Scotland; Lisa Luhanga, Queen Margaret University; Dr Jean Cowrie, NHS Education Scotland. 


SCPHN education is delivered from four universities within Wales. Programme managers regularly meet to discuss delivery of their programmes, any issues they may have and good practice. The impact of Covid-19 thus far has varied according to individual university processes, timelines and regulation.

Cardiff University provided a detailed update in the last issue of Community Practitioner. All current students have almost completed the SCPHN programme and are looking forward to starting their roles as HVs in September.

At Swansea University, Covid-19 struck SCPHN programmes from 17 March, when all students were sent an email stating that they must immediately go on study leave. Needless to say, a hectic time ensued, with students having to consider their workload, cancel planned home visits and reassure families that a service would still be available to them.

As the pandemic continued and the country went into lockdown, our students remained on study leave. Our lecturing team worked hard to provide relevant and up-to-date learning activities, ensuring the theoretical aspect of the course could continue. Zoom/Microsoft Teams became the new buzzwords, facilitating online lectures and personal academic mentoring time, which became a key source of information and communication exchange.

Our students remained on study leave until 4 May, at which time they were required to return to clinical practice. Following this challenging time, students are now due to complete their programme in September. The programme director is proud of the way they responded to the challenges, with support from skilled practice assessors and dedicated lecturers.

The University of South Wales programme runs April to April. The April 2019 cohort completed their course just as the country went into lockdown. Some of these newly qualified SCPHNs were deployed to testing centres and other disciplines, such as district nursing.

The SCPHN course due to start on 30 March was postponed until September 2020, after service leads rescinded student secondments; health board staff who were about to start their studies were needed in frontline areas, due to the crisis.

Another issue was that services had reduced capacity to support student learning because of redeployment. Our commissioners intervened and students who had been due to start Year 2 with the full-time cohort in April were able to start on 1 June 2020.

At Wrexham Glyndwr University, all students continued on the programme during the pandemic. Hours were recalculated and regular progress meetings occurred virtually with tutors.

Students worked from hubs within Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, supervised by their practice assessors and following Covid-19 guidance.

Practice utilised online child protection conferences, observations of students’ conversations and advice provided to clients, as well as essential visiting in PPE. Placement learning remained safe throughout the pandemic due to the support of practice assessors, the well-established partnership between them and academic staff, as well as the flexibility and drive of students, who are due to qualify as SCPHNs in September.  

Michelle Moseley, Cardiff University; Cathy Taylor, programme director at Swansea University; Dwynwen Spargo, senior lecturer, University of South Wales; Eleri Mills, SCPHN programme manager, Wrexham Glyndwr University.

*Northern Ireland to follow


Subscription Content

Click To Return To Homepage

Only current Unite/CPHVA members or Community Practitioner subscribers can access the Community Practitioner journals archive. Please provide your name and membership/subscriber number below to verify access:

Membership number

If you are not already a member of CPHVA and wish to join please click here to JOIN TODAY

Membership of Unite gives you:

  • legal and industrial support on all workplace issues 
  • professional guidance on clinical and professional issues 
  • online information, training and support 
  • advice and support for all health professionals and health support workers
  • access to our membership communities 
  • CPHVA contribution rate is the Unite contribution rate plus £1.25 per month 

Join here https://www.unitetheunion.org/join-unite/

If you are not a member of Unite/CPHVA but would like to purchase an annual print or digital access subscription, please click here