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FAQs Clinical Placements and COVID-19

Yes. At this time, NSW Health is supportive of the continuation of safe, risk assessed clinical placements in NSW Health facilities and affiliated organisations wherever possible.

Clinical placements are an essential element of educating and training our future health workforce. It is important that health students, particularly those in their final year, are able to commence and continue their placements to ensure they can meet their graduation and registration requirements.

For students to attend clinical placements in NSW Health public health facilities, the Clinical Placements in NSW Health Policy still applies. This includes:

  1. A NSW Health Student Placement Agreement (SPA) must be in place between a Health Service and Education Provider.
  2. Students must be compliant with the relevant mandatory requirements of NSW Health Policy directives and training prior to the commencement of a clinical placement. This includes National Police Checks, NSW Health Code of Conduct and immunisations.
  3. ClinConnect must be used to book and manage all clinical placements taking place.

The National principles for clinical education during the COVID-19 pandemic support and encourage student placements to continue where this is safe and possible to do so.

They set out national principles to guide the decisions of professions, accreditation authorities, education providers and health services about student clinical education during the COVID-19 pandemic response. This includes safety principles to protect patients, students and staff working in health services while supporting the delivery of high quality care to patients during COVID-19.

The National Principles have been developed and endorsed by the Commonwealth Departments of Health and Education, Skills and Employment, AHPRA, the fifteen National Boards under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme and the Health Professions Accreditation Collaborative Forum, following consultation with a wide range of stakeholders.

Patient, staff and student safety, wellbeing and quality of care is to be prioritised in all situations.

Decisions around the continuation and safety of clinical placements should continue to be based on risk assessments and consideration of local circumstances. In terms of risk assessment, students should be treated in the same way as existing staff.

Local Health Districts (LHDs) and Specialty Health Networks (SNs) are encouraged to implement local reporting processes to capture any symptoms in the student cohort and make it clear to students that if unwell, they should not attend the NSW Health facility.

COVID-19 specific considerations include, but are not limited to, assessments of social distancing and/or use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), adequate PPE supplies, supervision capacity, and hosting students in alternative settings.

Where clinical services are reduced or suspended for safety reasons, weighing up the capacity of clinicians to manage students and the ability for students to achieve learning outcomes may be necessary.

Yes. The NSW Health position regarding clinical placements in NSW Health facilities and affiliated organisations is consistent with the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020 [NSW] and Public Health (COVID-19 Residential Aged Care Facilities) Order 2020 [NSW].

These Orders support the continuation of student clinical/ work placements including travel to and from placements and/or an education facility. This includes placements in aged care facilities, where students can continue to enter a residential care facility subject to the requirements in clause 5 of the Public Health (COVID-19 Residential Aged Care Facilities) Order 2020 [NSW]. That is, they cannot enter if:

(a) during the 14 days immediately before the proposed entry, the person arrived in Australia from a place outside Australia, or

(b) during the 14 days immediately before the proposed entry, the person had known contact with a person who has a confirmed case of COVID-19, or

(c) the person has a temperature higher than 37.5 degrees or symptoms of acute respiratory infection, or

(d) the person does not have an up-to-date vaccination against influenza, if the vaccination is available to the person.

Yes. NSW Health is supportive of the continuation of safe, risk assessed clinical placements in NSW Health facilities wherever possible. In terms of risk assessment, students should be treated in the same way as existing staff.

Decisions around the continuation and safety of clinical placements should continue to be based on risk assessments and consideration of local circumstances including capacity to appropriately supervise the students.

Education providers and health services are encouraged to implement mechanisms to ensure students adhere to placement protocols, their supervisors’ directions and government advice regarding COVID-19.

The health system is entering a period of untested capacity. Where clinical services are reduced or suspended for safety reasons, weighing up the capacity of clinicians to manage students and the ability for students to achieve learning outcomes may be necessary.

Education Providers are asked to consider how they may assist hospitals to facilitate student placements, particularly if supervision concerns or time of placements are raised.

It may be possible to facilitate students in alternative clinical placement settings. Where appropriate and necessary, LHD/SNs are encouraged to identify any alternative placement arrangements in consultation with University and Registered Training Organisation (RTO) partners.

Yes. LHD/SNs are encouraged to implement local reporting processes to capture any symptoms in the student cohort and make it clear to students that if they are unwell, they should not attend the NSW Health facility.

Education providers are also encouraged to implement mechanisms to ensure students adhere to placement protocols, their supervisors’ directions and government advice regarding COVID-19.

Yes. In terms of risk assessment, students should be treated in the same way as existing staff, this includes now being screened along with all staff and visitors when entering a NSW Health facility which commenced from 17 April 2020. These additional measures will help identify anyone who may require testing and increase current layers of protection for patients, staff and visitors.

More information is available on the NSW Government’s symptoms and testing page.

No. It is not mandatory for students to complete the PPE module before attending a placement however students are strongly encouraged to complete it.

Students can access the module (PPE training videos) via the Clinical Excellence Commission website (CEC). There are other good resources for students regarding Personal Protective Equipment on the CEC site.

Yes. Under a temporary Regulation for the COVID-19 emergency under section 17 of the Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (NSW), the categories of people authorised to witness NSW statutory declarations have been expanded to include those who may witness Commonwealth statutory declarations. For further information on who can witness a statutory declaration, see the Federal Government Guidelines.

In addition, the Regulation provides that NSW statutory declarations can temporarily be witnessed by video conferencing technology (eg Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Zoom). The witness must still see a person signing the document in real time and endorse the document by specifying how the document was witnessed. For further details on the temporary requirements. The temporary Regulation will expire on 26 September 2020, unless changed by further regulation or resolution of Parliament.

The provisions outlined in the Regulation apply to overseas applicants and overseas students applying for a position / placement in NSW Health where they are required to provide a NSW statutory declaration regarding any criminal charges or convictions.

NSW Health will also apply the above provisions to relevant Commonwealth statutory declarations, in line with current advice from the Federal Attorney-General’s Department.

The latest advice for health workers, staff, healthcare students and volunteers diagnosed with and / or showing symptoms of COVID-19 or in contact with a COVID-19 case is available on the NSW Health website

NSW Health is continuing to monitor the situation for NSW with regards to COVID-19. Any changes to the advice on clinical placements will be communicated to the LHDs and our training networks and education partners.

The latest information about NSW Health clinical placements, including during COVID-19 is available on the clinical placements section of the HETI website: https://www.heti.nsw.gov.au/Placements-Scholarships-Grants/clinical-placements

Yes. Under Policy PD2020_017 Occupational Assessment, Screening and Vaccination against Specified Infectious Diseases it is mandatory for Healthcare workers and students that work in Category A High Risk areas in NSW Health facilities to have an annual influenza vaccination prior to 1 June each year.

Category A high risk areas are:

1. Antenatal, perinatal and post-natal areas including labour wards and recovery rooms and antenatal outreach programs

2. Neonatal intensive care units; special care units; any home visiting heath service provided to neonates

3. Paediatric intensive care units

4. Transplant and oncology wards

5. Intensive care units

6. Multipurpose Services (NSW Health)

7. NSW Health Residential aged care facilities (except when special provisions under section 4.1 of the policy apply)

Workers or students in Category A - High Risk positions that are unable or refuse to receive the influenza vaccine must wear a surgical/procedural mask while providing patient care in high risk clinical areas or be deployed to a non-high risk clinical area.

For further information see:

Yes. While there is a legal requirement in place for Healthcare workers and students that work in a State Government residential aged care facility to have an annual influenza vaccination, Policy PD2020_017 Occupational Assessment, Screening and Vaccination against Specified Infectious Diseases mandates that these workers must be vaccinated provided the vaccine is available.

Workers or students working in a State Government residential aged care facility that are unable to receive the influenza vaccine due to a medical contraindication as per the online Australian Immunisation Handbook must provide evidence from their doctor or treating specialist. During the influenza season these workers must wear a surgical/procedural mask while providing patient care or be deployed while the legal requirement is in place.

Workers or students working in a State Government residential aged care facility who refuse annual influenza vaccination must not work in the facility while the legal requirement is in place.  Wearing a surgical mask instead is not an option here.

Yes. The Public Health (COVID-19 Border Control) Amendment Order, which commenced at midnight 22 July 2020 provides a list in Schedule 1 of who can and can’t enter NSW.  The Order defines ‘relevant education visitor’ to include a person ordinarily a resident of Victoria who is a student of a University who is entering NSW for the purposes of receiving instruction.  Students on clinical placement fit this definition. Visitors (including students) are subject to the rules which states that they must self-isolate and obtain a negative COVID-19 swab result between the 10th and 14th day of self-isolation and start an additional period of self-isolation if, for any reason, the student returns to Victoria.

Different considerations apply if a student is a border zone resident travelling to NSW for clinical placement at a facility that is also in the border zone – in this case the student can travel for work or school but only if these activities cannot be done from home.

No. If a student was tested for COVID, they must stay in isolation until they receive their test results.  If the test result is negative, the placement may continue.  Further information may be found on the NSW Health website.  Information about releasing individuals from isolation can be found here.

Please follow the information on the NSW Health website.