Student nurses who have been supporting frontline staff during the Covid-19 outbreak say they didn’t think twice about stepping up to help. Our Trust recruited more than 100 second and third year students and offered them paid roles across our hospitals, after the pandemic threw the future of their nurse training programmes into doubt.
The innovative approach aimed to strengthen our frontline with skilled future nurses and keep their nurse training on track with minimum disruption. Second and third year students opted in to roles as healthcare assistants and advanced healthcare assistants on many of our wards.
Meanwhile, students in the final six months of their training were given the chance to take up roles as student nurses and student midwives.
Both schemes were co-ordinated by a dedicated Covid-19 Student Nurse and Student Midwife Retention Project team, drawn from members of our Nursing Education, Maternity Education and Trust Recruitment teams, tasked with inducting and supporting the students and helping them to continue with their learning.
Student nurse, Natalie Foster, admits she was very worried when Covid-19 struck during her second year at London South Bank University. Natalie says that although it wasn’t unexpected when she was told that her placement as a student nurse in ED would not go ahead as planned; it was still a huge blow.
She says: “It worried me massively because I like to have a plan and stick to it.
“Quite quickly, the Trust came up with the ‘opt in, opt out’ option. The key for me was ‘If I opt in, will my hours be counted as if it was a normal placement?’ and I was reassured on that one.
“I opted in because I wanted to help, for the learning and to get paid because I’m a student and I have a house to run, so I wasn’t going to turn the opportunity down.”
Natalie, aged 29, says any concerns she had were answered during a bespoke Induction Programme, and she felt well-prepared to take up her new role as an advanced healthcare assistant in the Medical Receiving Unit (MRU) at Queen’s Hospital.
She says: “The induction programme made everything really clear and I knew exactly what I needed to do.
“I love the variety of the patients on MRU and the fact I am learning about so many different things.
“I really hope that my first job when I qualify as a nurse will be at the Trust. I’ve been told that the opportunities for career progression are really good and I feel really happy here.”
Student nurse, Pinar Kent, says it felt “absolutely amazing” to be given the opportunity to help as the pandemic took hold.
The 37-year-old was in her second year at London South Bank University.
She recalls: “When Covid-19 hit, I had finished a placement in the Critical Care Cardiac Unit at Queen’s Hospital and been back at university for just over a month.
“When we weren’t able to take up our next placement, I was very worried. I used to talk every day to my friend in the same cohort and we would spend hours worrying about what we were going to do and whether we could continue to be student nurses.”
Pinar says she was keen from the beginning to offer her time and skills.
She says: “I would watch the news about Covid-19 and think I couldn’t just sit at home when I had worked in a hospital as a student nurse and could be using my skills to help.”
After completing the Induction Programme, Pinar was offered a role as an advanced healthcare assistant on Bluebell A ward at Queen’s Hospital.
She says: “All the staff I have worked with have been really helpful and supportive.
“The ward manager is giving me the opportunity to watch and help with things I haven’t come across before, because I am also there to learn.
“The support we’ve had from the Student Nurse Retention team has been amazing. It’s very helpful to be able to talk to them if we have any questions or concerns, and they are preparing on-going education sessions for us which is great as it’s important for us to really keep our learning going.
”Because of the pandemic, I have realised how nice it is to work in an environment with people you know and where you feel supported.”
A new role on Clementine B ward at Queen’s Hospital has enabled second year student nurse, Perry Greenall, to continue to plan his future as a qualified nurse.
The former ambulance technician says he has been able to continue with his studies at the University of East London via virtual learning, and at the same time gain the hands-on work experience he needs as an advanced healthcare assistant.
Perry, aged 32, says: “Personally, I feel I am an extra pair of hands on the ward so I do feel I am making a contribution, and it’s good to go back to basics and to link that with the challenges of Covid-19.
“I’m really happy with the balance of the experience on the ward and the learning which is being provided for us. I can’t fault the approach which is being taken.”
Second year student nurse, Rosemarie Stewart, says the on-going support she has received from the Student Nurse Retention team has had a big impact on the way she has settled into her new role as an advanced healthcare assistant on Mandarin B ward at Queen’s Hospital.
Rosemarie, who is studying at the University of East London, says: “We can talk to them any time and they are all so friendly and approachable.
“They keep applauding us for stepping up and trying this new role, and I really appreciate their support.”
Rosemarie, aged 36, who has previously worked for London Underground and as a Teaching Assistant, says her experience has reassured her that nursing is the right profession for her and motivated her to keep going.
“Personally, I feel that I am choosing a career in nursing and therefore I have to have the mind set that crises will happen and, in healthcare, all hands will be needed on deck,” she says.
“To be honest, I knew it was what I was going to do from the moment the offer was on the table. I have waited a long time to train as a nurse and I wasn’t about to pause it now.
“This has been a great learning opportunity, as well as a great chance to support fellow colleagues. This is my life now and at the end of the day, we are all one big team.”
A brand new role at our Trust as a student midwife has helped Louise Morrison get her training back on track.
Louise, aged 42, was out of action with a knee injury when Covid-19 struck, throwing her planned return to practice into doubt.
She says: “It was a very worrying time because we should have been going into our final block of placements and we didn’t know how we would be able to make up the required number of hours to qualify or what would happen to our training.”
Louise, who is in her third year at Middlesex University, is currently working on the Labour ward at Queen’s Hospital.
She says: “I am very grateful for the experience I am getting and the fact I will be able to complete my training. That’s a really good feeling.”
Anglia Ruskin University student, Anna Low, says she was pleased to take up a post as a student nurse on Sahara B ward at Queen’s Hospital.
She says: “I knew a lot about the Trust because it’s the closest hospital to where I live and I have done some bank shifts as a healthcare assistant at Queen’s Hospital.
“I am the sort of person who likes to see the positives of everything. This has given me the opportunity to work much closer to home, so the balance between work and study has been a bit easier for me.
“Taking up a new role hasn’t been easy, but I feel that everything I’ve learned at university has helped me to be prepared for any eventuality. Because of that, this has been a very positive experience.”
Anna says she has been so pleased with the support she has received at BHR, that she has already applied to stay here as a qualified nurse.
She says: “I have applied for a job on the same ward because my ideal would be to spend a longer period of time there and continue to develop my skills.
“I have never worked on a neurological ward before and I am finding it really different and interesting. It’s a great learning experience for me.
“The Student Nurse Retention team have been excellent. They really have students’ best interests at heart.
“I am just so grateful to have been given this opportunity.”