Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted undergraduate student nurses’ educational experience both in Australia and internationally. Work-Integrated-Learning (WIL) was particularly impacted in nursing with significant variations throughout the world of how WIL was managed by health care and education providers. This created an environment that impacted some students’ progression through their nursing education and potentially impacts the future workforce. The purpose of the study was to identify why students deferred or withdrew from WIL during the COVID-19 pandemic, identify support mechanisms accessed and what influenced their decision to withdraw.
Method: Statistical data from a survey conducted during 2020 was analysed with SPSS. Free text and interview data were analysed using qualitative content analysis.
Results: The results indicate that students withdrew from WIL experiences due to: personal/family health, family responsibility and work/finances. The majority of students accessed supports, however some students were not aware of supports available. Themes of the qualitative data were: supports; uncertainty; external influences; and possible solutions.
Discussion: The participants identified that the university offered many supports and often the decision was personal. Possible solutions were having an allocated counsellor, enabling easier access to online classes and a less restrictive process for granting assessment extensions.
Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges for vital WIL opportunities. The university responded to this and adapted policy and approaches to support students, however for some students this was inadequate. It is important to consider student experiences to ensure the future workforce is not disrupted during this time of need.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Lynda Hughes, Valda Frommolt, Jacqui Byrne, Danny Sidwell, Judith Needham