To mark this year’s International Nurses Day, we spoke to a number of The Open University’s (OU) nursing students to hear first-hand about their experience working and studying on the COVID-19 frontline.
Sian is in her second year of studying for the OU’s BSc (Honours) in Nursing. She lives in Denbigh, Wales and has worked at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd Hospital for the past six years as a Healthcare Assistant whilst studying to become a nurse:
“I had just started my first year when the outbreak happened. I’d been on placement for a couple of months and was doing the transition from healthcare to student nurse, but the pandemic meant we had to go back to main wards under our healthcare assistant role. We were told we couldn’t be in our purple uniform anymore, but that we could still try to do our student nurse work. It proved quite difficult trying to do all the healthcare and nursing on top.
We had a lot of support from our tutors, they were fantastic, making sure we had extensions if we felt we needed more time; and of course from my ward as well, my managers did everything they could to help me get through my studies.
Then the second wave started and all the staff from my ward got moved down to the first floor so that we were closer to ITU. We were responsible for the pre or post ITU patients – it was intense but not intensive care. We had to change our speciality to respiratory and infectious disease overnight.
I don’t think we realised how much we’d actually done. Now that the second wave has quietened down, we’ve gone back to a green ward and we’re getting our gastro patients back. I think we’re all assessing and taking stock after the last six months. Basically overnight, we’ve gone from having severely poorly respiratory patients, end of life, trying to keep people alive on ventilators and struggling with people getting hypoxia and dying from COVID, to just stepping straight back into our normal role as general staff. It’s been overwhelming.
We all seem to have changed since COVID. Our team were a close team anyway, but we’re now even closer, because we’ve supported each other through difficult times. I think it’s also changed my perception towards the general public when they’ve ignored lockdown measures, or you see people having fun – they don’t understand what we’ve had to deal with.
It’s been difficult, but I’ve tried to keep in mind that we’re all in the same situation and it’s a global issue, it was out of our control and we can only do our best. You could see the appreciation people had for us doing what we were doing, and the thanks on a personal level from them because they knew what we were dealing with and how it was on the ward when they came in.
I only started my second year in February, so I’ve got a good two and a half years to go. I’m coming up to halfway. The plan is that my cohort go on placement in September, which hopefully won’t be interrupted by the possible third wave. If it happens we will have to deal with it when we get there. I think that’s all we can do isn’t it?”
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