United Kingdom Nursing Students Work on the Front Lines of the Pandemic

In my post on September 22: Nursing Students Provide Insights into the Pandemic, I spotlighted the thoughts and experiences of the nursing students from Seton Hall University, New Jersey, as they cared for Covid-19 patients. 

Today’s post has the same focus but this time nursing students from the United Kingdom share their stories about working on the front line of the pandemic.  ITV News from the United Kingdom discusses a new book: Living with Fear: Reflections on Covid-19 that was written by twenty-two nursing students plus other health care providers. The feelings that were expressed by American nursing students are mirrored in the UK nursing stories. The pandemic serves as a backdrop to reinforce the positive impact that nursing has on health care delivery and shows the general public how nursing care makes a difference.

United Kingdom Nursing Students Launch New Book About COVID-19

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Lucy Watson

Wednesday 14 October 2020, 7:16pm

Student nurses who were recruited to work on frontline NHS services to respond the coronavirus crisis have shared their stories in a new book

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The trainees faced the daunting task of being placed in frontline positions at hospitals around the country whilst finishing their studies amid a global pandemic.

Now, some have written about the personal and professional challenges that inspired them to flourish at a time of national crisis. 

Entitled Living with Fear: Reflections on Covid-19, the book tells the stories of 22 nurses and other frontline professionals reflecting on what they experienced and how it impacted them. 

Ikra Majid reads from the book. Credit: ITV News

Student nurse Ikra Majid did placements at various hospitals in London and Hertfordshire during the pandemic. 

She now works at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield.

“There did get to a point where I thought, why I am I doing this, it’s too much. I didn’t sign up for this pandemic,” she said.

“We have to make the best of it. As people say, when life gives you lemons you make lemonade. I tried to make the sweetest lemonade possible.”

She added: “The pandemic has made me realise even more what an important job we do.”

“This book shows that fear doesn’t define or take away the skills and experience of medical professionals, but rather helps them to grow a new way of thinking and working.

“When our students were called into practice, it gave them a true sense of what nursing is. They helped to saved lives and became superheroes in their local communities.”

Another one of the authors, Estelle Kabia, helped patients at the Hammersmith & Fulham Mental Health Unit during the pandemic.

“Covid taught me to be the nurse I want to be,” she said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling, I don’t think I will ever do anything as big in my whole life.”

Estelle Kabia helped patients at the Hammersmith & Fulham Mental Health Unit.Credit: ITV News

The book also explores the concept of ‘moral injury’ where nurses feel unable to provide the care the patient needs leaving them to question their own ability.

Ms Kabia said: “Sometimes I felt moral injury as we were picking up new practical skills whilst dealing with sick patients coming in, but it would come and then go, because after a few weeks I could see the impact I had.

“In one way, stepping up was nerve-wracking but it also gave me the passion to go out there and help. You’re treated as a professional, not a student. I had no fear when I was on the ward.”

Claudia Sabeta, who finished her postgraduate course specialising in mental health nursing at Buckinghamshire New University this summer, worked at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow helping vulnerable and elderly mental health patients.

She said: “At first, I felt very overwhelmed by the Covid situation and I was worried about joining. I wondered how I would cope and if I’d put my family at risk. 

“But it was a great experience in the end and an opportunity I will never have again in my life.

“It had a positive impact on my knowledge and training, and boosted my confidence. I learned so fast and it will stay with me forever.”

Credit: ITV News

In July, thousands of student nurses recruited to work on the front line had their placements cut short, plunging some of them into financial despair.

In mid-April, NHS England reported that nearly 15,000 student nurses, midwives and medical students had joined “frontline NHS teams as part of the nationwide coronavirus fightback”.

Proceeds from the book will go to the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) Charitable Fund, which supports staff and service users.

Dr Scott Galloway, one of the book’s authors and Chief Clinical Information Officer at CNWL, said: “Every day, frontline healthcare professionals manage the challenges and stress of making difficult and uncomfortable decisions about how to provide the best possible care to patients.

“Sometimes, however, our capacities are so overwhelmed by extraordinary events, such as Covid-19, that we are unable to provide what we know the patient needs.”

One of the book’s editors Margaret Rioga, Associate Head of School in the School of Nursing and Allied Health at Buckinghamshire New University, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on everybody and created fear within us like never before.

“This book shows that fear doesn’t define or take away the skills and experience of medical professionals, but rather helps them to grow a new way of thinking and working.

“When our students were called into practice, it gave them a true sense of what nursing is. They helped to saved lives and became superheroes in their local communities.”

Humor Noir/Black Humor

While I was looking for something to read to my writing group, I came across this story. It brings back memories of how green I was when I started nursing school.

 

imagesRight before Patsy’s turn to share her thoughts with the group, she smiled coyly at me. Oh no! She wasn’t going to tell that story again? Not to the whole group? At almost every reunion since we graduated from Saint Peter’s Hospital School of Nursing in 1962, Patsy retold the same story. Now, at our 40th reunion, less than half of the forty-four graduates were in attendance. And for the first time we all sat around a large circular table. Was Patsy going to tell the whole group the embarrassing story of what happened in our first year of nurses’ training? Well, I always thought the story funny, but only when the four of us were reminiscing together—Gloria, Patsy, Julie and me.

(I caution my readers that the following is humor noir or black humor)

Patsy and Julie were roommates, as were Gloria and I. We would stay together during clinical rotations throughout the program.

One day, during our very first clinical, we each were assigned to one patient on the medical unit—practicing giving a bed bath. Eager young women in our teens, we wore starched white aprons and bibs covering light blue striped dresses with white starched cuffs mid-arm. Our white shoes were spotless.ca2a257635cc69e1fb1116481b9b5ca4

That day, Gloria and I had finished giving baths and making beds and set out to see if Patsy and Julie could join us for lunch. They had patients in the same semi-private room at the end of the hall.

As Gloria and I entered the room, Patsy’s patient, a thin, older man, abruptly sat up in the bed and forcefully vomited bright red blood all over his clean white sheets. Patsy grabbed a kidney basin—a small curved metal bowl—and shoved it under the man’s chin. Julie pulled the curtain around her patient but not before grabbing his basin. Julie took the blood-laden basin from Patsy and gave her the empty one. She then passed the full basin to Gloria who stood close to the bathroom and dumped the contents into the toilet and flushed—we hadn’t learn, as yet, that we needed to document how much blood the patient had lost.

While Patsy, Julie and Gloria passed around the full and empty basins, I ran out of the room. The nursing station looked so far away at the end of the long hallway. Rather than run down the corridor, I stopped and yelled. “WE NEED A NURSE.”

I don’t remember, but I suspect a “real nurse” came to help us. What I do remember is that the man eventually died and that the family was angry because in the midst of our inept effort to handle the emergency situation, we had emptied an emesis basin full of blood down the toilet—along with the patient’s false teeth.

And I remember that Patsy didn’t tell the story to the whole group, after all.