MORE than 2000 student nurses have volunteered to support the coronavirus response, Scotland's chief nursing officer (CNO) has said, while hundreds of doctors are graduating early to join the NHS.

CNO Fiona McQueen paid tribute to the "compassionate care and professionalism" of the student nurses who have volunteered for NHS Scotland, with the majority starting work this week.

Speaking at the Scottish Government's press briefing in Edinburgh, McQueen said there had been an "amazing response" to calls for student nurses, with universities organising for them to graduate early so they can be qualified to take part in the emergency efforts.

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McQueen said: "Our regulator, our universities across Scotland and our NHS boards have all worked together tirelessly to make sure that our senior students at the end of their education can join our NHS workforce.

"We've had an amazing response from our third and fourth-year students who have offered to step up and come into our health service ahead of when they graduate so they can be part of the workforce and help what is an incredible response for patients.

"So this week we are seeing over 2000 of them being deployed. Some of them won't start until next week but the majority have started yesterday and today, and it's a real thrill for me to see the compassionate care and the professionalism they have in stepping up."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon added: "We are asking a lot of nursing and midwifery students to step up at this unprecedented time when they have already experienced significant disruption as they come to the end of their courses.

"Their skills and experience will be vital in the coming months as we work to save as many lives as possible."

In an open letter last week to final-year allied health professional students, Carolyn McDonald, chief allied health professions officer, called on students to "agree to become part of your local health and social care workforce".

Those joining the response include more than 500 third-year students from Glasgow Caledonian University who have begun their inductions with health boards across Scotland, while 100 students from Dundee University have also graduated early.

Professor Rory McCrimmon, dean of the School of Medicine at Dundee, said: "We are really proud of our medical students in Dundee. We involve them in clinical practice almost from day one and I am confident they will make a real contribution to the NHS during this crisis."

Fifth-year graduate Emma Box, 24, from Linlithgow, said: "Starting work as a doctor is always going to be daunting. For the many new graduates joining the NHS workforce, the biggest difference is the uncertainty that has come with this.

"I think it's important for everyone, my fellow medical students as well as the general public, to remember that we're as ready as we'll ever be to start work as doctors."

Rachael Logan, 24, from Glasgow, added: "We don't quite know what is about to happen next. We've been invited to apply to start work early, but we don't know how soon that's going to happen, where exactly we'll be asked to work or what's going to be expected of us, but hopefully that all becomes clear soon."

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