Hundreds of students have been recruited to help the coronavirus response in wards and clinics across the north-east.
NHS Grampian often has trainees working as part of placements which typically last for a couple of months at most and are spread throughout the year.
But it currently has more than 450 student nurses and midwives offering their support for the coming months all at once.
The extended paid placements will last until August for second-year students, and September for third-years – allowing them to utilise their vital skills and knowledge on the wards, while further preparing themselves for what to expect in their careers.
NHS Grampian chief nurse Jane Ewen said: “We do have students in practice throughout the year but the difference now is from the Scottish Government directive to accelerate recruitment and capacity in our workforce in response to Covid-19.
“This has allowed us to work with universities to offer these extended paid placements.”
Most of the new recruits are from the Robert Gordon University, which has strong links with NHS Grampian.
The health board has also been working with establishments elsewhere, and has welcomed students from universities outside the north-east too.
These are mainly trainee midwives and nurses who are currently living in the area due to the pandemic, and cannot travel further afield.
Joanne Grant, NHS Grampian’s lead practice educator, said: “Usually the placements would be anything between six and eight weeks, but sometimes they are 12 weeks long.
“These are extended placements and the students have got a really good opportunity to stay in one area for a longer period of time.
“It means they can build they confidence and develop strong relationships with others in the area.
“They are learning and earning – and also contributing to the response.
“It’s a great opportunity for the students, but we really value them as part of our workforce too.”
Alongside time on the wards, the students are also focusing on their studies.
Lectures and seminars have been moved online, while other measures are in place to ensure they can still sit all the necessary exams.
Each has been given a hospital induction and a number of guides for how to use IT systems and input data correctly to help them get up to speed quickly.
They have also received specific information packs regarding the health board’s response to the coronavirus.
Mrs Grant added: “We are helping the students and other members of our workforce are mentoring them as well.
“It’s important to support them to make sure they can get the most out of this placement – not just as a member of the workforce but also as students so they can progress in their careers after.
“The fact they are being paid highlights how much we value them.
“The second-years are being paid at a certain levels, while the third-years are receiving more to recognise the knowledge, skills and experience they are bringing with them.”
The students say they have all been given a warm welcome on the wards.
Emma Burke, a children’s nursing student who has joined the NHS Grampian team, said: “I’m having a really good experience.
“We are all really being supported as students, but we’re also getting more of an opportunity to help people, to manage patients and to gain new skills.”
Fiona Buchan, who is studying adult nursing, said: “This is giving us the chance to step up and grab the opportunity to learn – it’s great to be able to contribute just now.
“Everyone is so positive and working together really well.
“All the staff really make us feel valued, and we are all valuing each other.”
And Michael Solo, who is also an adult nursing student, said: “All the staff have been very supportive.
“It’s nice to have these levels of morale to walk into every day.”
He added: “They also keep bringing in lots of home baking – they’re keeping us well fed, that’s for sure.”