We pay tribute to our amazing health and social care graduates working on the COVID-19 frontline

  • Date

    Tue 7 Apr 20

Luke Benstead, Essex alumnus

To mark World Health Day, we are today paying tribute to our amazing health and social care graduates who are working on the frontline day-in-day-out during the COVID-19 crisis.

Alongside all their colleagues across the UK, they are facing tremendous challenges at work to help the NHS deal with this pandemic, which is a crisis on an unprecedented scale.

The University has been delivering health and social education since 2004 and has prepared Registered Nurses, social workers, and other allied health professionals for roles in a variety of health care settings both locally, nationally and internationally.

Paying tribute to our health alumni, Sarah Lee, Head of Nursing and Health Studies at the University, said: “During the current COVID-19 crisis we have been privileged to hear how our past students have coped magnificently with delivering nursing care on the frontline in the most challenging circumstances and put into practice all they have learned with us.

“I am incredibly proud of how our alumni have simply stepped up to the challenge and are delivering exceptional care.”

Professor Victoria Joffe, Dean of our School of Health and Social Care, added: “At Essex, we train a range of health and social care practitioners including adult nurses, mental health nurses, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, clinical psychologists, psychological wellbeing practitioners, and social workers.

“A strength of the ‘Essex education’ is our focus on practice-based education right from the start, and this ensures that our students, and our alumni, are equipped with the skills, knowledge and confidence to work alongside health and social care practitioners in the workplace, no matter how challenging the situation might be.

“It is therefore unsurprising, but with great pride, that we see our alumni taking their place on the frontline, delivering evidence-based practice and putting the needs of their patients first. They are worthy role models for our current students, and a testament to the high quality and excellent standard of education they have received from our staff in the School of Health and Social Care.”

Luke Benstead, pictured above, is one of our alumni who got in touch with the University to describe what it is like working on the frontline during COVID-19.

Luke, who graduated last year, is working at an Essex hospital where his unit has felt immense pressure to adapt to the COVID outbreak with limited resources and less staff due to the Government’s guidelines on self-isolation.

Despite this, Luke feels the crisis has made him a better practitioner “because I am starting to build my resilience amongst the stress factors”.

“Emotionally I have utilised my university skills with reflection in and on action, and I have been writing a reflective diary every day to get my feelings out and try to understand what I could have done better in situations where decisions have been hard, or what is out of my control,” he added.

Luke has seen patients lose their lives to COVID-19 and the heartbreak of them not being able to be with their loved ones in their final hours.

“I have also witnessed some beautiful things, hearing my patients talk on the phone to their relatives in their most vulnerable moments. All I can say to my patients is that I am trying my best. I am proud to be a nurse even if I am so junior in my role right now.”

Fellow Essex alumnus Sherry Eaglestone, who works as a palliative Clinical Nurse Specialist, said the uncertainty of the situation was an ongoing challenge for her and her colleagues.

“The thing I'm finding the hardest is my patients are approaching the end of life and their families can't grieve as they should. 

“These people are dying as part of their disease/illness and I cannot even console them by holding their hand or hugging their relative as we would normally. These are not normal times but we are trying to continue as normally as we can.”