UEA Health Sciences students and staff respond to the fight against COVID-19

Following a nationwide call for support for the NHS workforce, UEA students and staff have responded in their numbers, from undertaking placements to training former healthcare professionals who are re-joining the service at this time of national emergency.

UEA Health Sciences students and staff respond to the fight against COVID-19
UEA nursing students wearing PPE

Students nationwide have recently been invited to undertake paid placement opportunities within the NHS as part of their training programs for a project being led by Health Education England, with support from the UK Government and professional regulatory bodies Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

The first wave of this project has already seen over 350 student nurses from all four fields of nursing (Adult, Mental Health, Children’s, Learning Disabilities), along with midwifery students, taking up the opportunity to undertake a paid placement experience in order to provide a boost to the NHS’s workforce.

This opportunity has been taken up by student nurses and midwives who are in the second and final years of their training program, with a second wave of the project allowing final year Allied Health Professional (AHP) students to opt in to supporting the NHS.

Carla Ferreira Dias, who moved to the UK from Portugal on her own four years ago, is a final-year adult nursing undergraduate at UEA.

Nursing is my passion and I’m starting today (Monday 27 April) at an NHS trust in London. One day I'll go back to Portugal, to be there for my family, meet my friends again and help the community there. But I'm here now, and proud to help a country that has given me so much, as a professional and a human being and where I've made friends for life.

Thank you to the UK, thank you to the University of East Anglia and thank you to our NHS.”

Carla Ferreira Dias

While students have been starting their journeys in healthcare careers, members of staff from the School of Health Sciences have been working hard to support the reintroduction of healthcare professionals who may have left the NHS and have returned, in response to the ‘Norfolk Needs You’ campaign.

This has seen nursing, operating department practitioner (ODP) and paramedic lecturers facilitating training sessions in the Edith Cavell Building at Norwich Research Park to support NHS workers in learning and refreshing clinical skills. Professionals on these courses have included nurses, doctors, midwives, paramedics, physiotherapists and health care assistants.

Four sessions of around 12-15 people have already been held, with training covering skills such as manual handling of materials and administering basic life support, two areas that have had to radically change to meet social distancing guidelines.

Tony Jermy and Iain Shuttleworth are two lecturers in Nursing Sciences at UEA who have been instrumental in setting up and delivering the upskilling sessions.

It’s been fantastic to see so many people returning and it’s been a humbling community experience to be involved with. One of the biggest challenges has been to try and tell a group of people whose first instinct is to help others that they have to look after themselves before they can administer aid.

We also couldn’t have done any of this work without the support staff who help us put on these sessions. Normally they would be getting things ready for students and supporting lectures, seminars and workshops but at the moment they are almost running the Edith Cavell Building – so I want to thank all of them.”

Tony Jermy, Lecturer in Nursing Sciences at UEA

Iain said: “As healthcare professionals, with all our knowledge, skills and abilities, we have a moral ethical duty and responsibility to help all those in need. The Covid-19 pandemic is a situation that cannot be ignored by anyone, any government or any country on the planet.

“An all-encompassing, co-ordinated global response is required, which needs to be maintained and monitored for the foreseeable future and I am very proud to play a very small part in that response.”

The Covid-19 pandemic and the rapid response from the NHS staff have really shown why nursing is such an important profession in the response to coronavirus and it’s fantastic to see that so many of our students and staff are willing to respond to this emergency in such a proactive way with our practice partners across the region.

We recognize that the decision for our students to opt in or opt out can be an extremely difficult one, with many who have vulnerable loved ones they need to look after at home. However, the response has been humbling with 95% of our final year students opted in.

Whether they chose in or out, we support their decision and will support them whatever point in their education they are at and we are all proud of all of our UEA students at what is an extremely challenging and difficult period.”

Professor Sally Hardy, Dean of Health Sciences at UEA


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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