• 22 December 2021
  • 6 min read

My Experience As A Student Nurse During The Covid Pandemic

  • Lillie McGuinness
    Student Nurse
    • Richard Gill
    • Aubrey Hollebon
  • 0
  • 688
“Stepping onto the ward was akin to entering a war zone, but instead of combat pants and backpacks, there were infusion pumps and visors!”

Lillie tells us what Student life was like for her during the pandemic and explains the changes that came as a result of COVID.

Topics Covered In This Article

Introduction

How COVID Has Changed Student Nursing

How My Education Has Been Affected By The Pandemic

Has The Pandemic Impacted My Ability To Qualify As A Nurse?

Has The Pandemic Changed My Outlook On Nursing?

Conclusion

Introduction

If you had told me in August 2020, in six months’ time, you’ll be caring for patients in a Covid-19 ward during the second wave of the pandemic, I wouldn’t have believed you.

At the time, I was working as a pastry chef for a local bakery, making croissants and custard (and eating a fair few in between).

My daily duties were far different to what they’d become in January.

From wearing a chef’s apron, to full PPE – it was a dramatic shift in pace.

How COVID Has Changed Student Nursing

The pandemic has changed the way many organisations are ran; many employees are now working from home to reduce the spread the virus.

Nursing students were also included in this change, with all theory sessions now being delivered online, bar a few mandatory face-to-face training sessions in basic life support and how to apply PPE!

And our lecturer had a strict approach to PPE.

They singled out students who touched their hair and made them change their whole PPE!

It was humiliating yet highlighted the seriousness of what we were about to be catapulted into.

My first day on placement will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I had been allocated an orthopaedic ward, but, to my shock, I soon found out that it had been converted into a general medicine/Covid ward to help ease the pressure on other departments.

To say that I was apprehensive would be an understatement.

But, putting aside my apprehension, I got ready for my first day and began memorising the order a mask, a pair of gloves, an apron, and a visor were meant to be applied.

Plus, I got to bake a tray of flapjacks – who can work a 12-hour shift without a sweet treat?

Stepping onto the ward was akin to entering a war zone, but instead of combat pants and backpacks there were infusion pumps and visors!

Staff were whizzing around with urgency while a range of buzzers that varied in pitch rang in the background.

I knew it was going to be an intense shift.

Luckily, the staff were welcoming.

I was introduced to my supervisor, who was delighted that she had been given a “fresh one” (a Nursing student who had never worked in health care before).

I attentively listened to the hand-over but quickly felt out of my depth – discovering that most of my patients were Covid-positive or were on the care-of-the-dying pathway.

Working alongside a health care assistant, I supported patients with their activities of daily living.

Year one of Nursing studies is dedicated to “fundamental care”, which, during Covid, was drastically different.

Having a lack of clinical knowledge, it became my role to provide critical emotional, social support to patients.

This was due to their relatives not being present on the ward.

However, my role also encompassed a more sombre aspect, delivering last offices and learning how to cope with mass loss.

How My Education Has Been Affected By The Pandemic

Student Nurses trained during this pandemic will bring with them a unique skill set.

Having been pushed to the limits emotionally and physically, we have built up a layer of resilience, resilience that we will take forward for the rest of our careers. My mentor would reiterate, “If you can Nurse during these times, you can Nurse throughout anything."

The pandemic also had a negative impact on staffing levels.

Many staff members were isolating or suffering from Covid symptoms, and some were even unlucky enough to have developed long Covid, meaning they were unable to work for a considerable amount of time.

Therefore, students missed out on valuable time with allocated mentors.

Alongside absent mentors, students also missed out on support and a sense of comradery from their fellow students due to the national lockdown and classes being online.

However, there are some surprising positives!

Now lectures are online, students have been known to take some liberties…from washing dishes to browsing memes.

How many Nurses can say they have attended lectures while baking a cake before?

Joking aside, we were able to attend a virtual placement with a school Nurse and health visitor which was really insightful.

Has The Pandemic Impacted My Ability To Qualify As A Nurse?

Although training to be a Nurse during the pandemic has not been an easy ride, my ability to qualify as a Nurse has not been affected.

However, some of my peers have hours to make up due to Covid sickness, this will be rectified before the end of the year.

Has The Pandemic Changed My Outlook On Nursing?

I started my studies in September 2020, meaning that I’ve never known Nursing outside a pandemic.

Although it has been a gruelling year, I’m looking forward to my future career and being able to put all the skills I’ve gained to good work.

The past year inevitably has had an impact on my mental health.

I’ve often thought whether I did enough for my patients back in January, feeling like if I was more experienced maybe I could’ve helped more people.

But, through self-reflection, I’ve learnt how to process and realise the positive impact I made in the pandemic.

Conclusion

It’s been a strange year to become a student Nurse.

Some days you must laugh, or you will cry!

It’s important to surround yourself with people who are kind and support you.

My husband, who has been living with long Covid for over a year, has been my rock.

He’d listen thoughtfully as I explained my anxieties everyday after my placement.

And my student Nurse friends who were always there to pick me up after a traumatic day, reassuring me I am a competent student.

And my mam, who has over 30 years’ experience as a healthcare professional, would always laugh at the tales I brought home from the ward.

Although people often ask me, why would you trade making cakes for a living to becoming a Nurse?

The answer is clear to me: Nursing someone in their time of need is sweeter than any confectionary could ever be.

About the author

  • Lillie McGuinness
    Student Nurse

I'm Lillie, I'm an ex-pastry chef and current student nurse! I have an interest in ME/CFS, long Covid and a passion for helping people live well with chronic medical conditions. My ambition is to one day be a community nurse! In my spare time I love to make chocolates for friends and family.

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  • Lillie McGuinness
    Student Nurse

About the author

  • Lillie McGuinness
    Student Nurse

I'm Lillie, I'm an ex-pastry chef and current student nurse! I have an interest in ME/CFS, long Covid and a passion for helping people live well with chronic medical conditions. My ambition is to one day be a community nurse! In my spare time I love to make chocolates for friends and family.

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