Winter 2021 Placement FAQs: Undergraduate Students
What to expect when on Placement During Covid-19
Version Date: December 14, 2020
As students are preparing for clinical placements in the Winter term 2021, it is anticipated that students may have questions about the current clinical environment. In an effort to reduce anxiety and uncertainty, the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, together with our hospital partners, are preparing resources for students, both virtual and in-person.
Supervisors and students should always adhere to standards and/or policies defined by their local clinical site.
- Staying Safe During Placement
- Occupational Health and Safety
- Virtual Care and Learning
- Life Outside of Placement
- Wellness Resources
Pre-screening/Hospital Entrance Procedures
If you had clinical placements in the Fall you will have already completed the COVID Curriculum as a mandatory requirement prior to placement. We advise that you review again all relevant modules, in the COVID curriculum prior to your Winter placement. The Faculty strongly advises that you refresh your knowledge of donning and doffing of PPE at a minimum.
If you did not have a clinical placement in the Fall and will be having your first clinical placements in the Winter term you must complete the COVID curriculum; a short course in Quercus. This course includes 7 core modules that address a variety of interdisciplinary topics, as well as an additional module developed specifically for nursing students. The COVID Curriculum contains a mix of videos, eLearning modules, fact sheets and other written information. You may already be familiar with some of this content, however, this is meant to be a refresher to ensure that you are well prepared and can practice safely.
Completion of the COVID Curriculum is mandatory prior to entering the clinical environment. Students will be enrolled in the course at least a week in advance of beginning their placements. It will take approximately 2-3 hours to complete all of the required learning. Please note that in addition to this training, you will also receive site-specific education to further enhance your knowledge.
You may be required to self-isolate prior to starting a placement if you have travelled outside of Canada recently, have COVID-19 symptoms or may have been exposed to COVID-19. You must inform the Clinical Education Office in the Faculty of any potential exposures. Please review the Public Health Ontario Covid-19 Factsheet – How to Self-Isolate – [PDF]
Individual health care organizations may have self-isolation requirements for particular circumstances. Students will receive information related to any agency-specific requirements from the Clinical Education Office and / or orientation materials before clinical practicums.
You will be screened upon entry to a clinical site. This will include questions related to recent travel outside Canada, COVID symptoms, if you have been in an environment (e.g., Long Term Care Home, Hospital Unit) with an outbreak, if you think you have been exposed to a person with COVID-19. Over time, as more is known about COVID-19, screening processes may evolve. Some clinical sites have introduced routine, required and regular COVID testing for students as well as staff. You will be notified by the clinical site if you need to be tested, how often, and where to get a test.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- In Hospital settings you will be provided with PPE appropriate for your responsibilities (e.g., masks, face shields, gowns, goggles, etc. as required).
- The specific type of mask, gloves, gowns, and protective eyewear may vary based on your responsibilities, and what is currently available at each hospital.
- In community settings you will be provided with PPE appropriate for your responsibilities (e.g., masks, face shields, gowns, goggles, etc. as required) by the placement provider. Where the community placement does not provide PPE, the Faculty will provide you with the appropriate PPE.
The safety of students is a priority for the Faculty. No student will be placed in an institution that does not have the necessary PPE. All clinical placement sites are reporting stable supplies of PPE.
- Masks will be provided to all students, as needed. Masks should be discarded when moist, contaminated, directly contacted by a patient, difficult to breathe through, or damaged in any way.
- For performing direct patient care, masks are to be worn continuously, as much as possible. A mask does not need to be removed between patient interactions, even if a patient is isolated under droplet and contact precautions (i.e., the face shield provides protection of the mask).
- Even if not performing direct patient care, masks are to be worn continuously in all spaces including clinical workstations, hallways and teaching rooms (seminar rooms, simulation rooms and classrooms). All hospitals currently require face protection/masks in all areas of the hospital. Please refer to your local hospital policy.
- Masks may be temporarily removed only while alone in a defined area (e.g. in an office or behind a physical screening barrier).
- If a mask is temporarily removed under the conditions identified above, you should perform hand hygiene before and after donning and doffing, and follow Hospital infection prevention and control (IPAC) recommendations on safe storage (e.g. place on a clean surface with inner mask facing upward to avoid contamination).
Mask fit testing is currently being scheduled for January 2021 at the Faculty; details will be provided shortly. If your clinical practicum site uses a different N95 mask to the one that you were tested on, the clinical site will mask fit test you for their available masks during onboarding.
You will be required to attest to completion of the University of Toronto COVID Curriculum which includes a module relating to use of PPE. Placement providers will provide onsite education and training relating to PPE. The training may vary depending on the practice area.
Staying Safe while on Placement
Ontario is expecting to receive over 90,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine over the course of December 2020 which will be distributed to a total of 19 hospital sites in regions most impacted by COVID-19 over the next 2 weeks. As directed by the Ministry of Health, this includes two pilot sites, The University Health Network (UHN) and The Ottawa Hospital, who received doses of the vaccine early in December and administered 2,300 initial doses to essential health care professionals working in hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes and other congregate settings caring for seniors.
Medical residents, fellows and all health professional learners are being considered within the overall vaccination process along with frontline staff. More information from the Ministry of Health is anticipated to come. An update will be provided when it becomes available.
Effective this January Winter term 2021, all Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing Undergraduate BScN students within clinical practicums will be able to provide care not only to persons under investigation for COVID-19, but also for patients diagnosed with COVID-19.
The rationale for the lifting of restrictions that had been placed upon our Undergraduate nursing students caring for COVID+ patients relates to how the knowledge about COVID-19 transmission, assessment, and treatment has grown over these last few months, as has the current adequate supply of PPE for student use. Furthermore, as the pandemic continues to evolve, COVID+ patients are being admitted for care in a much wider variety of clinical units and potentially in almost all clinical units across area hospitals.
Your Clinical Instructor will communicate with you in clinical settings where there are COVID+ patients to determine your readiness to provide care for COVID+ patients in that circumstance and will assess the unit’s ability to provide PPE and other support (e.g. availability to assist as needed) for your clinical experience. Please discuss strategies and concerns with your Clinical Instructor and/or course teacher so that they can assist you to receive the clinical education experience you need to meet your course / program requirements.
No. Undergraduate students will NOT participate in or observe aerosol-generating medical procedures (AGMP) eg. suctioning etc., under any circumstances.
You will be provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that meets and/or exceeds provincial minimum requirements when you are in your clinical placement. The specific type of mask, gloves, gowns, and protective eyewear may vary based on what is currently available and required at each site. You will not be asked to provide clinical care without the appropriate PPE for the activity you are involved in.
Appropriate hand hygiene should be performed regularly. Hands should be washed for at least 15 seconds and/or rubbed with sanitizer for at least 15 seconds.
Please review the Public Health Ontario factsheet on hand hygiene – [PDF]
Clinical placement providers are in constant communication with the Clinical Education Office in the Faculty. Should an outbreak occur on your assigned unit, the Clinical Education Office will be made aware. You will be informed of the process required by the practicum agency occupational health department regarding their infection control policies, which may include testing for COVID-19, or removal from the placement for a period of time. Causes of outbreaks are multifactorial, as is their management – the clinical site will confirm with you the process to be followed in accordance with their own IPAC and OHS policies.
Clinical sites will provide you with information regarding spaces available for breaks. The following general principles apply when taking your break(s):
- The number of people in lounges and common areas or where students meet should be limited as to provide 2 metres between them.
- You must perform hand hygiene upon entering common lounge spaces.
- There should be no food or drink shared amongst persons.
- When eating snacks or meals, you should remove and discard your mask and you must remain physically distanced. A new mask should be donned prior to resuming clinical work.
The safety of our students while on clinical placement is a priority for the Faculty. Should you believe you are in an unsafe practice environment you should contact your clinical instructor, course faculty and the Clinical Education Office.
Occupational Health and Safety
Please review The Ministry of Health COVID-19 Reference Document for Symptoms – [PDF]
Everyone with symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g., fever, cough, difficulty breathing, etc.) should stay home, not work, and self-isolate. Please follow this Ontario Ministry of Health self-assessment tool. A number of dedicated assessment centres have been established across the Greater Toronto Region to facilitate assessment and testing. Information on locations is available on local public health websites, including Toronto and Peel Region. If you live in other regions you can find your local health unit here: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/common/system/services/phu/locations.aspx
If you are advised by a public health authority that you have tested positive for COVID-19, please contact your course instructor, your Clinical Instructor, and the Clinical Education Office. Please also contact firstname.lastname@example.org immediately.
Follow Public Health Ontario advice on self-isolating: Public Health Ontario Covid-19 Factsheet – How to Self-Isolate – [PDF]
If you are living with someone who has symptoms of, or has been diagnosed with, COVID-19 you should consider yourself a “close contact” and follow the Public Health Ontario advice: Public Health Ontario Covid-19 Isolation Guide – [PDF]
You should contact the Clinical Education Office to advise them of your “close contact” status. Do not come to the Faculty in person and do not attend your clinical placement.
Clinical learning is a fundamental component of the undergraduate nursing program. If you believe you require an accommodation for a health condition you should contact U of T Accessibility Services
Virtual Learning and Care
You may be asked to complete some activities virtually, for example, team debriefs or meetings. This could even include virtual care consults for patients.
The University of Toronto COVID Curriculum for Health Sciences Students includes a module on Virtual Care. Many placement providers will have their own education and training resources relating to the delivery of virtual care.
Life Outside of Placement
Follow the advice of Public Health Ontario to protect yourself and others: Public Health Ontario Covid-19 Fact Sheet – [PDF]
Living with someone who is immunocompromised does not preclude you from undertaking your clinical placements. Follow the advice of Public Health Ontario to protect yourself and others: Public Health Ontario Covid-19 Factsheet – [PDF]
Students will be screened upon entry to a clinical site and should follow standards and/or policies defined by their clinical placement site. This will include considerations related to COVID-19 exposure, such as if you have been in a work environment with an outbreak, or if you have had unprotected contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient or colleague at another job.
The Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing must be compliant with the current Directives of the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care:
Currently an employee of a long-term care provider who performs work in a long-term care home operated or maintained by the long-term care provider shall not also perform work:
(a) in another long-term care home operated or maintained by the long-term care provider;
(b) as an employee of any other health service provider; or
(c) as an employee of a retirement home.
Long-term care workers who must temporarily give up a job in another care setting as a result of this order are protected from losing that job because they are entitled to an unpaid leave of absence.
The Clinical Education Office will advise you of any other restrictions your placement provider may have in place.
The Government of Canada continues to advise against non-essential travel outside of Canada. Should you elect to travel outside of Canada you will be required to quarantine for 14 days on your return.
You can use public transport to get to your clinical placement. Practicing safe physical distancing, when possible, wearing a mask and travelling only when you need to are still important. To minimize crowding at stops and in stations please consider travelling at off-peak times where possible. Please visit the TTC Covid-19 Info page for more details.
The Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing has a number of resources available in relation to health and wellness. Please visit our Health and Well-being page on our website.