Experiences of student nurses during the first wave of the pandemic : a qualitative study

Naidu, Yogini, Whiting, Lisa, Pattison, Natalie, Godbold, Rosemary and Adams, Claire (2021) Experiences of student nurses during the first wave of the pandemic : a qualitative study. In: RCN International Nursing Research Conference 2021; 07-09 Sept 2021, Held online. (Unpublished)


Background : In March 2020 in response to the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, student nurses in England in the final year of their degree could choose to work on the frontline for their final extended clinical placement, paid as band 4 health care assistants (Swift et al, 2020). 16 students across all fields of nursing from an East of England University who chose to go on extended placement were interviewed between July and September 2020. Aims : The aim of this study was to understand and learn from their experiences, and to inform and enhance approaches to student education and experience. Methods : We used a qualitative approach and rapid analysis techniques, underpinned by thematic analysis. Rapid research is used to facilitate cost-effective and timely results in rapidly changing situations (Beebe, 2001) providing immediate insights in areas in which little is known (Johnson and Vindrola-Padros, 2017). Results : Five themes were identified from the interview data: rationale for undertaking the extended placement, role tensions, caring for patients and their families, the impact on teaching and learning and personal health and wellbeing. Discussion : In an unprecedented global emergency, students put themselves and their families at risk, motivated by wanting to be useful in the pandemic, to finish their nursing degree, and the financial incentive. They had largely positive experiences, in particular, a heightened preparedness for qualification. However, they faced challenges including balancing clinical commitments with learning needs in environments in which usual levels of support and supervision were often lacking, and expectations around their role required clarity. Conclusion : Our participants experienced huge emotional, educational and personal challenges, which they overcame with their own personal strength and resilience, and support from the University and their friends and families. Their experiences provide important insights into education and support of students for the future.

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