Learning through the pandemic. Student Alley puts personal pain to one side

Date 31.07.2020

A student who has been working on the frontline throughout the pandemic says the experience has enhanced her learning, despite coronavirus claiming three of her nearest and dearest.

Alley Eyre is nearing the end of her Adult Nursing degree at the University of Northampton and for her current clinical placement has been caring for Covid-19 patients at on Harrowden A ward at Kettering General Hospital.

Her ‘new normal’ has involved intense but rewarding 13-hour shifts, in full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This includes a facemask – not easy when you also wear spectacles – and a full-length suit, as shown in the photo above.

Despite the relative discomfort, it’s an opportunity Alley seized upon. When the government originally called for nursing students to ‘opt-in’ for Clinical Extended Placements and provide extra people hours, Alley signed-up automatically.

She explains: “I said yes straightaway. My argument was, I want to be a nurse and the coronavirus situation – although scary – wasn’t going to go away just like that. If I had been qualified, I would have continued working.

“For me, the pandemic is the perfect environment to learn more about working during a crisis and add to my skills. Yes, the heat from the suit is draining, but it’s not difficult to continue with my tasks and only adds a minute or so extra to my usual getting ready time.

“Personally, I’ve been hit hard by Covid. My aunt, uncle and also a close friend died from it, but what keeps me going is knowing that I am helping my patients and their families.

“My family have been really supportive – my husband said he wasn’t in the least bit surprised that I ‘opted-in’ – even when I grounded them all at the start of lockdown and, with four energetic kids at home, that was no small feat!

“When I started my degree, I struggled with academic work. It took a while for me to develop the confidence to put my hand up and ask a question – and I never have problems with communication!

“But now, things couldn’t be different. I know where I’m going, I know who to approach if I need to talk about something and I have developed finely honed classroom skills such as my essay writing. Now, all I need is to complete my final year and two more placements and all of the studying will be done and I’ll have achieved my dream of becoming a nurse.”

Kettering General Hospital’s Director of Nursing and Quality, Leanne Hackshall, said: “I want to thank Alley and all of our student nurses for the courage and dedication to duty they have committed during the pandemic.

“They have been fully involved in patient care throughout this emergency and have learned new skills at pace in a highly pressurised environment.

“I am extremely pleased and proud of the way they have done this and the support they have provided for our patients and their ward colleagues during a very difficult time for the hospital – and indeed for the whole community.

“I am also delighted with the incredible support our ward teams have given the student nurses to ensure that they have been able to cope well while continuing to learn and develop their skills.

“As a Trust we will continue to support all our learners to achieve their academic and professional development goals.”

Find out more about Nursing at the University of Northampton.