Student Nurses & Midwives on the frontlines

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Bridget, who is studying to be a nurse, talks about her experience of working on the frontlines of the Covid 19 pandemic.

How difficult has it been for you working on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic?

In the first wave of the covid-19 pandemic, I decided to take on a student nurse contract to help provide on the frontlines. I was in a ward with people who had contracted the Covid-19 virus. It was very emotionally, mentally, and physically challenging, but I wanted to help. There was a fantastic team spirit even in the darkest of days. I felt there was a constant worry that I would bring it home to my family. Overall I think it will make me a better nurse in the future, but I still recall those challenging days. It’s a very surreal thing to experience. 

While on nursing placement as part of your studies, how were you financially affected by not being able to work your part-time job?

 In the first wave of covid 19, I did relief work in the healthcare sector, so there were minimal hours due to redeployment of the permanent staff from other areas of the HSE. I took the student nurse contract, and I voluntarily took a €6 per hour pay cut. I am back working in my part-time job now, but I have to give it up in January when I have to go back on placement as I am not permitted to work due to the control measures in place to restrict the chances of spreading the Covid-19 virus. I have no idea how I will financially survive. I have a mortgage to pay on my house, and I am liable for the full 3,000 euro tuition fees I have to pay because I am a mature student.

What do you plan on working after you finish your degree?

 I have plans that involve going abroad to do work, but it might only be in a charitable capacity. I went back to do nursing as a mature student, so my family and life are set here in Ireland. It is so upsetting that despite how much I am invested in working in the Irish health service, but student nurses are being forced into poverty because as we can’t have any part-time jobs. We are not paid for the placement we have to do for our degrees. It shows how we are valued in the eyes of the Irish Government. We are the future workforce of the HSE.’

I have recently done a module in leadership and management as a part of my degree, and it’s so ironic we are told by the HSE it is all about the collective leadership and staff who are engaged in improving the quality of the health service in their work and value. This is not how we feel when we start our careers in nursing once we finish our degrees.’

Has being on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic affected your mental health?

Yes, I really had to take time for myself, to be more mindful of how vulnerable I am as a person on the frontlines. On my days off, I am exhausted. I just have to be kind to myself. I think being a mature student, I have felt I am more aware of how the impact of this was having on me, so I talked to people a lot to debrief and did activities that supported my mental health.

I am increasing anxious about going back on the frontline for placement in January. I am not alone in the worry about contracting Covid-19, but now the unprecedented financial pressure I am under as a result.

With the pandemic continuing to exist within Ireland, it is essential not to get complacent, and it’s vital to be aware of your mental health and those around you.

Please wear a mask, wash your hands and don’t go unnecessarily go out. To stop the spread, we need to collectively take charge of our lives and how we act in the future to ensure that people at risk and the healthcare staff are protected while combatting this pandemic.

If you have been affected by anything in this article, please find support services you can contact for help.

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