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'Field training' opportunities for nursing students in Japan decreasing due to pandemic

Students at Jikei Kashiwa nursing school practice mock childbirth using a pregnant woman simulator in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, on Dec. 23, 2020. (Mainichi/Takehiko Onishi)

KASHIWA, Chiba -- As the spread of the coronavirus and another state of emergency in several prefectures have put a strain on medical care services in Japan, nursing students have been forced to cancel or scale back their "field training," in which they practice their knowledge and skills in hospitals and other facilities.

    "You have a healthy baby," called out a nurse in training using an electric simulator made of special resin, while listening to the heartbeat and measuring the pulse during childbirth training at Jikei Kashiwa nursing school in Chiba Prefecture.

    In order to take the national examination to be certified as nurses, nursing schools require students to complete at least 23 credits (45 hours per credit) of on-the-job training during the three-year course, but due to the risk of infection at hospitals and the lack of nurses to teach, the nursing school suspended on-the-job training from the end of February to the end of June last year. Since July, the number of students in practical training has been reduced, and half of the required credits have been substituted by simulator and other practical training approved by the government as a special exception.

    Saki Onuki, 21, a third-year student, expressed her concern about the decrease in practical training, saying, "At school, my friends play the role of patients and it goes smoothly, but actual patients are completely different as they cannot move or are in pain."

    According to an emergency survey conducted by the Japan Nursing School Association last year, 296 of the 316 schools that responded to the questionnaire reported that the facilities where their students received on-the-job training informed the schools that they were unlikely able to accept them. After the "first wave" of coronavirus infections settled down in June, facilities in some regions began to accept students gradually, but restrictions on the number of students are still in place.

    Ikuko Sasaki, 58, deputy principal of the school, said, "With the reissuance of the state of emergency declaration, we have to switch our planned field training to on-campus training and we are struggling with this."

    (Japanese original by Takehiko Onishi, Photo Group)

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