University of Newcastle final year medical and nursing students will be called upon to provide support for the region's health care workers as the COVID-19 pandemic puts the health care network under unprecedented strain in coming weeks.
Clinical student placements were paused for two weeks from Sunday in response to the worsening crisis.
Final year students who are willing are instead being prepared to provide support to health care professionals when demand surges.
Potential tasks that nursing students could assist with include bathing, taking temperatures and staffing fever clinics.
NSW Nurses & Midwives' Association General Secretary Brett Holmes welcomed the additional support but said it was essential that student nurses were provided with appropriate supervision and remuneration.
"They're not fully trained yet but they could be a good support," he said "There are a number of concerns about the work they could potentially be asked to do so there need to be appropriate protections in place."
"It is also important to recognise that they are paid appropriately and the work they perform is not regarded as a good will gesture."
The federal government has also allowed international student nurses and other aged care workers to work more than the 40 hours a fortnight that they are currently.
The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia said it was vital that the nursing and midwifery workforce be mobilised quickly.
"We are working with health departments to understand specific needs and to develop advice for senior-year student nurses and midwives who wish to assist during the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining standards and safe patient care," a spokesperson said.
Mr Holmes said the union was taking about 100 calls a day from members with concerns about work, health and safety issues relating to COVID-19.
"Unfortunately we have had reports of members of the community stealing masks and hand sanitiser from hospitals," he said.
"While a lot of people are living in a bubble at the moment our members are out in the front line. They have to keep going and we have to make sure they have what they need."