"Finishing a shift where I have vaccinated 150 people really makes me feel that I am helping fight this pandemic", says Lisa Blake who graduated with The Open University in 2020 and is now a Registered Nurse.
This time last year we marked International Nurses Day in WELS by celebrating the achievements of Open University student nurses and nurse graduates. At that point the first wave of the pandemic was potentially beginning to subside in the UK and it felt as though ‘normal service’ might soon be resumed. As we now know, this was not to be the case and, like many of us, our nurses have been through a staggering and sometimes overwhelming range of experiences since.
However, as Lisa notes, the pandemic has given many nurses the opportunity to diversify their skills and experience and encouraged many healthcare workers to consider a career in the nursing profession. More than 2,000 nurses have already qualified with the OU, through our partnerships with over 230 healthcare employers.
Here are some of those nursing students and graduates with an update on how the past year has impacted on – and in many cases enhanced – their experience:
Lisa Blake’s study with the OU led to her becoming a Registered Nurse in 2020. She says that despite the uncertainty of recent times she has never felt more excited about what the future holds for her nursing career.
“This time last year I was putting the finishing touches to my dissertation and getting ready to qualify. As the pandemic started I knew that my first year as a registered nurse was going to be different to what I had previously expected.
“My normal working day changed suddenly: A significant number of appointments were now reviewed via telephone and video link and this new form of communication with patients was a skill that I needed to learn quickly. Having to wear PPE meant my workplace also became a challenging environment. Although the situation made me nervous, getting up every morning and putting on my uniform gave me a feeling of pride that I have never felt before.
“Currently my main role is delivering the vaccination programme, either at COVID vaccination centres or out in residential homes and patients’ homes. Administering the vaccinations makes me feel that I am truly making a difference.”
Hear Lisa talk about how she combines work, study and family life in a series of short films made before the pandemic:
Solomon Jones is an OU Apprentice Nurse at Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Last year we reported that Solomon had been nominated for the Mary Seacole Nursing Times Student Award. He has now begun the third and final stage of his apprenticeship, fitting study in around an already busy placement and additional responsibilities:
“At the start of 2020, all my student placements were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I was re-deployed to a new COVID-19 ward which was initially very daunting. I completed additional training and was appointed PPE Safety Officer for the ward, with the responsibility of teaching staff at all levels the importance of proper PPE use. As well as this, I conducted all FIT Testing for PPE which was used when dealing with cardiac arrests and other aerosol generating procedures and vital in providing critical care for our patients. I eventually returned to Community Nursing and in turn, my student placements.
“What have I learned working as student nurse during a global pandemic? To stay calm. To rely on others and know that I was not in this alone. To remember that there is always a new day to come.”
Paul Gardner-Smith is an OU nursing degree apprentice and was on placement as a Nursing Assistant in the Emergency Assessment Unit at John Radcliffe Hospital (Oxford University Hospitals) as the pandemic took hold. His work meant that he was at the heart of the national NHS response to COVID-19, but he continued to promote the OU Nursing programmes whilst also voluntarily supporting colleagues. Paul had to rapidly learn new ways of working and said at the time, “I would urge anyone being asked to take on extra responsibilities at this time to take advantage of the learning opportunities which these situations create.”
Paul was presented with a WELS 2020 Student Mentor/Ambassador/Buddy of the Year award last Autumn.
Looking to begin a career in nursing?
If our nurses have inspired you to take the next step to a career in nursing, you can find more information on the various pathways offered by The Open University here.