Midwives and student nurses can be legally called upon in the advent of a swine flu epidemic, according to the nursing regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
The NMC has published a position statement following the outbreak of H1N1 swine flu in Mexico, outlining the legal status of nurses and midwives who are called on to help in the advent of a large scale outbreak.
There is also some general information for nurses about swine flu, pandemic flu and what plans the four UK government have to combat any outbreaks.
The NMC has also provided information about how to keep well during a pandemic and how nurses’ work may change if flu becomes widespread in the population.
According to the statement, midwives can extend their scope of practice to provide nursing duties as long as they are competent to do so.
Nursing students should remain on their programme wherever possible but can be called upon to help if they are considered competent and if they are provided with the correct level of supervision.
Students should be removed from any situation considered unsuitable or safe, however.
If nurses or midwives are working outside their normal area or scope of practice, they must ask for advice, support and supervision from a competent practitioner.
Unregistered non-UK nurses cannot provide direct care but can provide support, the NMC adds
The advice reminds nurses: ‘If faced with any aspect of practice that is either outside their area of registration or beyond their competency level, they must seek supervision or advice from a competent practitioner.’