In March, second- and third-year nursing year students were scouted by the NHS and asked to opt in or opt out of supporting our designated NHS Trusts during the global pandemic. I opted in.
Personally, I wanted the hands-on experience of working through a pandemic, allowing myself to expand the knowledge and skills that I'll eventually need when I become a registered nurse. I also wanted to be able to support the NHS as much as I could. Here are five major parts of my experience that I will never forget.
1. Wearing a surgical mask/FFP3 mask
As soon as I started placement, I was told that we would have to wear a surgical mask throughout our 13-hour shifts. The first couple of days of wearing the mask were challenging, especially as I had never worn a surgical mask before. I knew it was something that I had to get used to. Once I had been wearing the mask throughout my first two shifts, I found that I got used to wearing it.
This definitely opened my eyes in respect of those who wear full PPE and FFP3 masks all day on the Covid-positive wards; my respect for their courage and bravery grew tremendously. It also prepared me in having to wear masks in public outside of practice.
2. Promoting health in practice and outside of practice
In March, Covid-19 cases were at an all-time high. I knew as a student nurse I had just as much of a duty of promoting health as those who are paid to do so.
By personally asking visitors to the hospital to simply wash their hands frequently, use hand sanitiser, keep their distance and wear a covering, I felt as if I was able to support our community in the smallest of ways into help making It a safer place for everyone. It felt very rewarding.
Promoting health as a student nurse is just as important a role as learning!
3. Support in practice
While on my placement, I was overwhelmed by the amount of support we had during the time I spent on the ward. Every member of staff was willing to help myself and other students learn. They supported us through our placement and made sure we were safe while doing so.
The skills that I have learned through working in a pandemic will be those that I carry with me for the rest of my professional career, and I am forever grateful for the staff supporting us, especially with the heavy workload we had.
4. Staying safe
During my time on the ward I learned a lot about hygiene and its importance during the pandemic. We were told to not travel in our uniform unless we were driving in alone, and we were not allowed to go home in our uniforms (to prevent the spread of the virus via our uniforms). It was also suggested that we wash our uniforms separately, on a 60-degree wash.
From being on placement, I have learned a lot about the transmission of the virus and other illnesses that have been resulting from Covid-19, such as PIMS-TS – the syndrome linked to Covid-19 that started affecting children.
5. Clapping for the NHS
When the public started clapping for the NHS, myself and my colleagues were overwhelmed by the amount of support we were getting and it definitely boosted our courage and picked up our moods.
I personally would like to say a huge thank you to the public for supporting us through this difficult time. I would also like to say thank you to the local restaurants and small businesses that donated food, masks, visors, ear savers and many other amazing items that aided us during our shifts. Thank you!