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Our wonderful final year student nurses join the NHS frontline

  • Date

    Tue 21 Apr 20

A student nurse self portrait

Final year nursing students from the University of Essex have volunteered to work on the NHS frontline across the county during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The current health crisis means frontline clinical staff are needed on an unprecedented scale and the healthcare workforce is not large enough to deal with the anticipated number of patients requiring care, particularly those needing the most acute and critical care.

The University’s final year nursing students were asked to become paid students in an extended clinical placement so they could both complete the skills assessments needed to finish their degree and, at the same time, contribute to delivering frontline care.

The 50 students who volunteered have undertaken inductions at East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) at Colchester Hospital and at Mid and South Essex University Hospitals (MSE) in Southend, Basildon and Chelmsford.

Most will start their placements on wards this week and many of the students will be based in critical care and COVID-19 wards.

“We are so proud of our healthcare students for the way in which they have volunteered to support the NHS in this time of crisis,” said the University’s Head of Nursing Sarah Lee. “Some of our students aren’t currently able to contribute directly due to health conditions or family responsibilities, but their opportunity to contribute will come later and will be just as valuable.”

The students involved in this first wave will be followed by the University’s mental health students, postgraduate nursing students and allied health professions over the coming weeks.

One of the adult nursing students who volunteered was Rosina Chapman, pictured above, who has also been shortlisted for the Student Nursing Times Awards 2020.

“I knew that I wanted to volunteer from the beginning,” said Rosina. “I came into nursing for the same reason as many – I want to help people. I know that I can use the skills I have developed over the past three years to help my colleagues in practise, and, in turn, help people who have become unwell with the virus.”

While studying on the BSc adult nursing programme, Rosina’s training was mostly in a hospital, working across medical, surgical and acute units as well as working with district nursing teams and community mental health services.

When the pandemic began, Rosina was studying at home, completing assignments, and waiting to go on a final management placement. The offer to “opt in” to work as a paid student nurse gave her the opportunity to complete her course on time and help in the crisis.

“The induction was initially a little stressful,” she explained, “but I am grateful for the team at the University who have been very responsive to our emails and hold regular Zoom meetings so that we are all kept up to date. By the end of the induction week, I think many of us started to feel the nerves, but we are all also keen to get out there and offer our help. We all served as a great support for each other during this.”

Rosina, who has not started her placement yet, has been assigned to Southend Hospital’s acute respiratory unit, which is caring for COVID-19 patients.

“I am nervous about being on the frontline, but I am also surrounded by support from my friends, family and the University,” added Rosina. “It’s this support that has empowered me to be able to go and join my colleagues on the frontline. So, I am looking forward to helping, that’s what nursing is all about.

“Nothing makes me feel more privileged than having someone trust you with their care. It’s the best job in the world.”

Dean of Essex’s School of Health and Social Care Professor Victoria Joffe added: “We have been working very closely with our Trust partners to ensure our students are placed in the most appropriate settings to maximise their contribution and learning opportunities. I am grateful for the collaboration, commitment and hard work of staff, students and our NHS partners in making this happen.”

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