Student diaries give BBC audience a glimpse of life inside NHS during COVID-19

BBC national news is running a series of video diaries recorded by University students and others working in the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Broadcast throughout the day today, Monday 20 July and subsequently, the diaries offer a unique insight into life on the NHS ‘front line’ at the height of the pandemic, as students from across the Faculty of Health volunteered to support the existing workforce.

The coverage is the culmination of a project by 2nd year BSc (Hons) Nursing (Adult Health) student Joy O’Gorman, who has worked tirelessly to help shine a light on the contributions of student nurses and health professionals to the national effort. The project arose from Joy’s participation in the Council of Deans of Health 150 Leaders programme.

As well as clips from Joy herself on placement at Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, the coverage includes diaries recorded by final year BSc (Hons) Dietetics student Olivia Mason while working at Poole Hospital in Dorset, as well as live interviews with final year Midwifery student Abbie Rich.

Joy said:

“For health students, COVID-19 has delivered huge challenges as well as unique opportunities.

As the outbreak progressed, many of us waited anxiously for news of how we could support our much-loved NHS, and it has been incredible for some of us to be able to put all our learning into practice at such a critical time.

“However, for many different reasons not everyone was able to go straight into a clinical environment, and I applaud all my peers, both those who chose to pursue extended placements, and those who took the difficult decision not to, due to personal circumstances. This must have weighed heavily on them as the nation celebrated its ‘NHS heroes’. I would love therefore for BBC viewers to recognise these diaries are just a small glimpse into the great work students usually do up and down the country during our degree years.

“I am very glad to be able to share some of our experiences, and I’d like to thank BBC journalist Jim Reed for seeing the potential in my idea and running with it.”

Having completed a placement at Poole Hospital earlier in the year, Olivia qualified early in response to the pandemic and joined the COVID-19 register. Having worked in the hospital throughout the outbreak with patients who had just left Intensive Care, she has now secured a permanent job there as a Band 5 Acute Dietician. Olivia said:

“Diet is a key part of rehabilitation. If a patient is not fed well and doesn’t have the energy for things like physio, it’s going to be more difficult to get them home, so I work very closely with the physiotherapists and others to help patients recover. 

“I have really enjoyed working in the NHS over this period. Obviously I wish COVID-19 wasn’t here, we all do, but I think it has meant a lot of students have been thrown in at the deep end, and I’m not sure that has been a bad thing, actually. We have all had to show we can adapt to any situation, and I think that makes us more attractive to employers.” 

Associate Professor Louise Winfield is Head of the University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, part of the Faculty of Health. She said:

“I am incredibly proud of Joy for organising this, and Abbie and the other students who took part. The way our students have risen to the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19 has been fantastic to see, and I am delighted that the School has been able to make such a huge contribution to the NHS workforce across the region, at a time when it was so badly needed.”

Professor Sara Demain is Head of the School of Health Professions, which is responsible for Dietetics programmes. She said:

“I would like to thank Olivia, Joy and Abbie for giving up their time during an incredibly busy and stressful period. This project is hugely valuable in raising awareness of the contribution students have made over the last few months, particularly in areas like dietetics, which do not traditionally receive much of the limelight.

“I hope their efforts will help people to see that caring for patients, whether suffering from COVID-19 or anything else, is very much a team effort, and that the contributions of all the professionals involved are equally crucial.”

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