Nursing studies

COVID-19 may be disrupting my degree, but it won’t dim my desire to be a nurse

Thanks to coronavirus I’m entering my second year as a nursing student with no experience of a hospital ward

Im concerned about my lack of clinical skills, and virtual learning can be challenging. But one things for sure I know I want to be a nurse

Social distancing rules mean virtual learning in the norm, and clinical placements have been postponed Picture: iStock

Despite having been a nursing student for a year, I am yet to wear my student uniform outside of university simulation suites.

I have studied a few modules and written assignments, but I have not been on a hospital ward yet or practised any clinical skills on patients.

I am just starting my second year, and my lack of clinical skills and time in practice make me apprehensive. My first clinical placement is in January, but I dont know where this will be.

Learning

I’m concerned about my lack of clinical skills, and virtual learning can be challenging. But one thing’s for sure – I know I want to be a nurse

Social distancing rules mean virtual learning in the norm, and clinical placements have
been postponed Picture: iStock

Despite having been a nursing student for a year, I am yet to wear my student uniform outside of university simulation suites.

I have studied a few modules and written assignments, but I have not been on a hospital ward yet or practised any clinical skills on patients.

I am just starting my second year, and my lack of clinical skills and time in practice make me apprehensive. My first clinical placement is in January, but I don’t know where this will be.

Learning how to give nursing care to
a non-compliant toddler requires
practical experience Picture: iStock

Welcome to a COVID-19 nursing degree. This is our new reality, and nobody knows what is round the corner – a second lockdown perhaps? An overwhelmed NHS? All I know is that I want to finish my course and become a registered nurse.

I was unable to practise clinical skills in my first year as a nursing student

When I passed all my first-year assignments, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. But it felt strange because I have only done eight weeks of a health visiting placement and never practised any clinical skills.

Instead, I had an unexpected but welcome four-month summer break to enjoy with my family, so I did not complain.

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has damaged the health of the population, but it has shown the true value of nurses and nursing’

My course is about to resume, and all lectures will be delivered remotely. Attendance on campus is only required for a few practical sessions, such as manual handling and basic life support, which will be run in small groups to adhere to government guidance on social distancing and infection control measures.

While social distancing rules are in place, attendance on campus is only required for
practical learning Picture: Neil O’Connor

I am studying the theory, but will have to wait to put it into practice

I am keen to restart my course and learn more about my chosen field – children’s nursing. The first-year curriculum is quite general, encompassing elements of adult, mental health and child nursing, with shared modules to provide a solid starting point.

But the second year focuses on your chosen speciality, and I will be studying essential aspects of children’s nursing on a theoretical level. Although it is important to have this underpinning knowledge, I feel quite frustrated I have to wait until January to put everything I am learning into practice.

It may sound straightforward in the textbooks, but facing a non-compliant toddler, a screaming baby or a sulky teenager while trying to carry out a nursing procedure or examination, is a different matter. Add COVID-19 to the mix and it is completely uncharted territory.

Virtual learning strategies for nursing students – my top tips

Before attending an online lecture, identify possible distractions and eliminate them.
And don’t forget to move and stretch between sessions Picture: iStock

Keep up to date with your lectures as much as you can. If they are being recorded, watch them as soon as you can – it is hard to catch up when you have accumulated many hours of lectures.

Keep yourself motivated by having a clear goal in mind. Write it on a post-it note and stick it on your computer to remind yourself why you are doing this.

It may be tempting to multi-task by doing your online shopping or checking social media sites while watching a lecture. Unless you have switched your camera on, nobody can see what you are doing, but it is important to remain focused and alert. Turn your phone off and eliminate all distractions around you.

Keep moving between lectures and during breaks. Get outside for a ten-minute walk or a jog, or just move around inside your house. Have a routine of stretching exercises or dance to your favourite music. Exercise is extremely important if you sit in front of a computer all day.

Look after your mental health. Don’t let things overwhelm you and ask for help if you feel things are slipping out of your control. If you need support, ask for it – don’t suffer in silence.

Don’t lose perspective on your life. Your health and well-being are the most important things, so nurture relationships with your family and friends. We are all human and these are unprecedented times. Everybody is entitled to a breather, now more than ever.

I have so many questions, like how to get back the lost hours of practice learning

Although I look forward to going into placement, I am terrified of the unknown. I don’t even know if our placements will go ahead as originally planned, or where we will end up.

All I know is that I have a certain amount of practice hours to complete by the end of my degree and nowhere to fit in any missing hours. What if I become ill or have to self-isolate? Will I have to extend my final year? Will I be able to graduate? Plenty of questions and very few answers, just like the pandemic.

Remote learning has its advantages, but it presents challenges too Picture: iStock

I was able to make childcare work in lockdown, but next time – I’m not so sure

My other major worry is childcare. At the moment, my child is happily looked after in school while I concentrate on my studies. Most lectures are scheduled during school hours, which is manageable as I don’t have to travel anywhere, just plant myself in front of the computer at home.

‘My goal is to enter nursing, a profession I feel is finally being valued by the public and recognised as a vital part of our society’

But with COVID-19 infection rates rising, and new government restrictions being imposed, I fear there will be another school closure. I managed during lockdown, but I’m not sure I would be able to do it this time; my timetable is quite heavy, and the workload and demands have increased significantly.

The level of study skills is higher, and assignments are becoming more critical and analytical. From now on, it’s not only about passing but also about the overall mark at the end of the degree. The stakes are high, and I will have to rise to the challenge.

There is so much uncertainty, so I no longer make plans

I have no idea what this new academic year will bring and how our lives will be further affected by the pandemic. There is so much uncertainty that I no longer make plans, I just take it one day at a time.

But my end goal has not changed – I want to enter nursing, a profession I feel is finally being valued by the public and recognised as a vital part of our society. The COVID-19 pandemic has damaged the health of the population, but it has shown the true value of nurses and nursing, with the increase in the number of people accepted on to nursing courses in England this year showing its new popularity.

But it is not just about training new nurses, it is about keeping them. We have yet to see how many of these enthusiastic new recruits will remain in the profession long after the COVID-19 pandemic has gone.


Lenka Huntley

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