Swansea nursing students say they are proud to be able to face the challenge of joining the NHS during the pandemic.

More than 700 nursing students from Swansea University opted to take on clinical roles and have begun caring for Welsh patients this week.

Third-year nursing student Natalie Jenkins said: “This was definitely not the situation I expected to find myself in at this stage, and despite obvious anxieties I feel extremely privileged to have the opportunity to complete my training on the frontline.”

While she admitted it would be a steep learning curve, she said: “I feel honoured to be able to do my part and help where I can. The entire NHS is in this together and it is an experience I can learn from and take forward in my nursing career. “

Natalie and her fellow nursing students have been deployed to care for patients with Hywel Dda, Swansea Bay, Cwm Taf Morgannwg and Powys health boards as well as in the independent sector.

Professor Jayne Cutter, Head of the University’s Department of Nursing said she was immensely proud of the nursing students who had taken up the extended placements in clinical practice and made possible through discussions with the Health Boards, HEIW and the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

This means that though the students are working in frontline services, they will be in areas which reflect their own scope of practice and their training and assessment will continue, along with protected learning times.

“The students will make an enormous contribution to patient care and will provide a huge amount of support to the NHS and independent sector during these unprecedented times,” she said.

However, Professor Cutter said it was important to remember those students who had chosen not to opt-in to the initiative.

“Overwhelmingly, these students would have liked to have been able to attend placements but because of health or family circumstances have found themselves unable to do so.”

Professor Ceri Phillips, Head of the College of Human and Health Sciences, emphasised that the University is ensuring that these students would not be at any disadvantage and would receive meaningful and relevant activities to complement their earlier studies and experience.

He said: “The enthusiasm, commitment and dedication shown by all of our nursing students has been outstanding and bears testimony to the quality of the training they have received from within the University and during their placements in clinical practice.”

He also thanked Health Education and Improvement Wales, the body that oversees healthcare training in Wales for its support and assistance in getting students into clinical settings so quickly.

Second-year student Matt Townsend felt opting in was definitely the right decision for him: “If Covid-19 has taught me anything it is that resilience is a fundamental part of our role as student nurses.

“Nobody envisaged that we would be involved in a global pandemic. While I am anxious and nervous about what lies ahead, I feel this is a fantastic learning opportunity and a chance to develop personally and professionally as a clinician.

“I feel ready for the challenges and struggles that lie ahead and will discharge my duty of care in the way that Swansea University has always taught me – with courage, commitment and compassion.”

Sam Richards, who is five months away from completing his nursing degree, said: “ “Although many of us will be returning to clinical settings where we have been placed previously, the landscape has changed considerably as a result of the Covid-19 measures.”

However, he said he and his colleagues felt supported by nursing colleagues and the wider interdisciplinary team.

“I am looking forward to entering practice in this way.”

Callum James, a second-year mental health nursing student, admits he hadn’t really appreciated the gravity of the situation until the sad death of his lecturer Brian Mfula from Covid-19.

“Like all other students who have chosen to opt-in I am worried, but I’m honoured to be able to contribute and help out in any way.

“I just hope my experience so far can contribute to the recovery of individuals in need of it. We all work so hard during our training and we should all be proud of ourselves – regardless of our decisions around opting in or out.”

He added: “I look forward to the day when this is all a memory and we can move forward as better, confident and proud students.”

Swansea University