Class of 2020: Sam Nelson

We’re so proud of our class of 2020. They've overcome enormous challenges to graduate, but at the same time they've been determined to make a difference - helping others, grasping opportunities to develop their skills and showing their Essex Spirit in so many different ways. Now we're taking the chance to celebrate their achievements.

  • Date

    Wed 22 Jul 20

Sam Nelson, wearing a protective blue face mask and a colourful pink and red bandana on his head

Sam Nelson will leave Essex with more than just a BSc Physiotherapy. His final-year placement in Covid 19 care has given him invaluable experiences that will help his future career and heart-warming memories that will last a lifetime.

Sam, who previously studied sport and exercise science and worked as the manager of a gym, knew he wanted to change career and retrain after shadowing a physiotherapy team at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds: “Within half a day I knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life. Seeing how much impact physiotherapy had, in so many different settings that I was unaware of, really intrigued me,” he said.

He has spent his final-year placement working in intensive care and Covid wards at the Ipswich Hospital and, after gaining temporary registration on the allied health professions register, is now working at the West Suffolk Hospital where he is completing a full-time rotational position.

“It’s been a fantastic learning opportunity,” said Sam. “It has been incredible to witness the effort, passion and humanity with which the NHS has responded to this crisis.”

Sam has provided vital support in intensive care rolling patients to aid oxygenation and prevent bed sores, monitoring and suctioning chest secretions, and performing passive movements to maintain joint motion. On wards he has helped patients regain their strength, learn to walk, and develop care packages from when they are discharged.

Sam cites the emotional toll as one of the biggest challenges he has faced: “It’s something that is difficult to overcome but discussing how I am feeling and the wonderfully supportive teams I have been in has helped no end.”

Knowing patients find it difficult to identify with care professionals wearing essential PPE has also been hard: “I am very much looking forward to being able to remove the masks and smile at patients for encouragement and greeting again,” he added.

The positive impact he has made on lives far outweighs the challenges however.

“In my first week of my placement I spent every day with a man two years younger than myself teaching him how to walk again. To witness him regain his personality and energy was wonderful. And being part of the team that helped a paramedic, who had been extremely near death, get strong enough to go home was something I’ll never forget,” he said. 

Sam plans to complete his rotations at the West Suffolk Hospital where he is particularly keen to do a neurological and respiratory rotation. He is also exploring opportunities to work abroad and learning sign language.