Starting a work placement when you’re a student can be daunting at the best of times but what is it like to experience a new working environment in the middle of a pandemic? Students from the University of the West of England Adult Nursing degree shared their experience of working in the community to support vulnerable people during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Adult Nursing student Connie Evans started her community nursing placement with health and care provider, Sirona care & health, in March as COVID-19 was spreading rapidly across the UK and social distancing measures were being introduced.
Unfazed by the outbreak, Connie joined hundreds of other health and care staff who supported vulnerable people in South Bristol during the outbreak.
“I was in my final year of my Adult Nursing degree at UWE and starting my final placement (NP7) with Sirona when the outbreak began. I had already done several other placements throughout my degree but this one was graded so it contributed towards my degree classification.
“I was based at the Amelia Nutt Clinic in South Bristol for the 12-week placement and supported people in the South Bristol area who were house-bound and needed continence/catheter care, wound care, palliative care and support.
“There were some noticeable differences during the outbreak to previous placements I’d done although, working in the community, I was used to dealing with different situations and infection risks. I wore full PPE and I also needed to use my own car for social distancing reasons rather than travelling with a supervisor. This was different to previous experiences as I would usually get feedback in the car on the way to the next person, but I got lots of support from Sirona and adapted to the different ways of working.
“All of the people I saw were house-bound so social distancing measures didn’t make too much of a difference to them, but they were concerned about myself and other healthcare professionals coming into their homes and bringing in the virus, so I provided lots of reassurance during visits.
“At first I felt quite anxious about working during the outbreak as things were changing all the time. I also have a young son so when I got home, I would put all my clothes in the wash and have a shower before seeing him. There were times when it was stressful, but I thought if I can get through my management placement during a pandemic, I can face anything!
“I have always wanted to work within community nursing. You need to really want to do it, love what you do and be quite resilient - it is not for the faint hearted! But it is equally rewarding, and I enjoy getting to know people, building a rapport with them and their families and caring for them when they are at their most vulnerable.”
Connie is finishing her degree this summer and starting work with Sirona in the autumn.
Nicky Stiles is an Assistant Practitioner at the South Bristol Urgent Treatment Centre and was on a placement as a district nurse during the outbreak. She is currently studying for an Adult Nursing degree while on a scholarship with Sirona. She explains why working in the community is so rewarding.
“I have been an Assistant Practitioner for four years with experience of wound dressing so when I went out on placement into the community I was able to hit the ground running. I was based at the Leap Valley Medical Centre in Downend and the team were fantastic which is so important and I learnt a great deal from them.
“I felt nervous doing the placement during the outbreak but I wanted to help and I really enjoyed it. It reinforced what I had learnt academically and I’ve learnt a lot clinically. I loved being able to help people who are vulnerable and living alone and there are many who are lonely and just want to talk, I really felt I was helping just by being there. It was stressful at times but if you can work in a pandemic you can do anything!
“I visited people in their homes which is very different to the hospital environment I am used to. With my mentor offering me outstanding guidance and support, the transition has been a good experience.
“As an existing Assistant Practitioner I was able to go into Year 2 of the degree and will finish next at some point next summer depending on the course structure which has changed due to COVID-19. The diversity of nursing is massive and placements help to give you a taster of what you are most suited to.”
Find out more about working in Community Nursing on the Sirona websitehttps://www.sirona-cic.org.uk/work-with-us/