Salford heroes: Student nurses on the frontline of fight against coronavirus

Categories: School of Health and Society

As the NHS continues to manage the impact of the coronavirus, University of Salford students are at the heart of the health care response.

Kerry Cain is a second-year student nurse and mother to 4 children – 3 of whom still live at home. Alongside charity work, and setting up her own sewing business, Kerry is also working 40+ hours in A&E to support the NHS during the pandemic.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way. I thrive off being busy and get great satisfaction helping patients on placement and at work. I think keeping busy is my coping mechanism.”

When the pandemic started, Kerry spent a shift ‘holding a gent’s hand as he passed away.’

“He would have been alone because his family couldn’t be with him due to safety reasons. I have seen adults sobbing because they can’t sit with loved ones, the elderly scared because they just don’t understand why we are staring at them with gowns and masks on and confused as to why no family have visited them,” she explained.

“I am proud to be the one that has comforted and soothed someone in their final hours and minutes and I know I do it well and with respect , the way I would want someone to do it for me or my loved ones. This pandemic hasn’t changed any of that for me.”

Charmaine Bolton is a third-year student nurse from the university who was shortlisted in the Student Nursing Times Awards in the “Outstanding Contribution to Student Affairs” category. She had moved to the Netherlands just before the outbreak took hold. Charmaine had a job and education program offer in the country which she was looking forward to starting.

Sadly, this has fallen through due to the pandemic, but she has now signed up to the Dutch government's "extra handen voor de zorg" (extra hands for care) to help as a healthcare worker. She is currently living in Den Helder which has a large population of older residents and so she says she is really keen to get stuck in and help support the most vulnerable in any way she can.

Charmaine said: “I am so proud of all the student nurses at Salford and I want to wish all my colleagues who are starting work and supporting the NHS the best of luck! It's so amazing to hear the positive stories of communities coming together to support our healthcare and key workers. We have been joining in by clapping here too for both the NHS and the NL zorgmedewerkers (healthcare workers).”

Nathan Harrison, a second-year student nurse, has been working across A&E departments in Greater Manchester. He has been ensuring that suspected COVID-19 patients ‘get screening, where appropriate, and the care they need to get better.’

He believes that PPE and taking precautions are vital in limiting the likelihood of catching COVID-19 himself.

“People have been asking me if I’m worried about getting the coronavirus since I’m exposed to people with the virus on a regular basis.

“I live on my own, so I don’t have to worry about spreading it to anybody at home. During this time, I have had to focus on keeping myself well.”

Nursing students have now been given the chance to take part in paid extended clinical placements in order to support the front line. Nathan has opted in for this placement and has requested to work at the NHS Nightingale North West Hospital in Manchester, where he would be working directly with coronavirus patients.

Nathan also helps to run the University of Salford’s nursing society, supporting fellow students during the pandemic. The society has created a Sharepoint site for all students to access information and guidance to support their practice and to ensure that they keep safe. They also rolled out a COVID-19 Peer Support Network on Facebook, to allow students  to seek peer to peer support and share ‘the amazing things they are doing’ during this pandemic.

Nathan said, “I am proud to work for and support the NHS during this pandemic. It feels amazing to be a part of the COVID-19 response as a student nurse and to make a real contribution to overcoming the pandemic.”

Aisha Hussein is currently in the third year of her children's nursing degree and was recently shortlisted in the category of “Student Nurse of the Year: Children” at the prestigious Student Nursing Times Awards.

While waiting for her employment checks to be completed so that she can start her role as a staff nurse, Aisha has been working as a Health Support Worker in her local A&E department, dealing with potential and confirmed cases of coronavirus. She told us she had experienced swabbing patients and NHS staff to test for the virus as well as assisting nurses and other healthcare professionals in caring for patients with the condition.

Aisha said: “At times it has been a heart-breaking and terrifying experience; some days I go home and cry myself to sleep. I have had to care for patients that are fighting for their lives and are not able to see their relatives. But I know I have tried my utmost in caring for these patients during this time, making them feel comfortable, and updating their relatives when appropriate.

“I am so grateful that I am qualifying as a nurse during a time like this and that I have had the opportunity to help during this crisis. Whilst I understand that joining the NHS workforce at this time will be a challenging and scary experience, I hope I can help ensure that I support each and every other student I come across. Personally, I have decided to continue to help as much as I can during this crisis, while keeping myself and others safe.”

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