Student nurse ‘superheroes’ conquer their COVID-19 fears to help save lives

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Date: 25th Sep 2020

New book reveals how Bucks’ student nurse ‘superheroes’ conquered their COVID-19 fears to help save lives

‘Moral injury would come and then go when I could see the impact I had on patients,’ says mental health student nurse

Student nurses from Buckinghamshire New University have revealed how they conquered personal and professional fears to help save patients’ lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

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In a new book, Living with Fear: Reflections on Covid-19, student nurses who joined the frontline whilst finishing their studies describe how their fears inspired them to flourish and grow at a time of national crisis.

Meena Bansal, who finished her postgraduate course specialising in mental health nursing at Buckinghamshire New University this summer, visited people in their homes to assess their mental state.

“I was initially scared about going into placement when I started in May. Despite testing negative, I was fearful of passing COVID onto people who were vulnerable in case I was a carrier. After some time, it felt normal to be in placement again. I have no fear anymore, I feel better prepared and now I have hope.”

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Claudia Sabeta, who finished the same course, helped vulnerable and elderly mental health patients. “At first, I felt very overwhelmed by the COVID situation and I was worried about joining. I wondered how I would cope and if I’d put my family at risk, but it was a great experience in the end and an opportunity I will never have again in my life. It had a positive impact on my knowledge and training, and boosted my confidence. I learned so fast and it will stay with me forever.”

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One cause of fear the book explores is the concept of moral injury, which occurs where nurses and clinicians feel unable to make sure patients receive the care they need. This leaves the nurse or clinician questioning their own ability, which has been a particular worry for students.

Dr Scott Galloway, one of the book’s authors and Chief Clinical Information Officer at Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Every day, frontline healthcare professionals manage the challenges and stress of making difficult and uncomfortable decisions about how to provide the best possible care to patients. Sometimes, however, our capacities are so overwhelmed by extraordinary events, such as COVID-19, that we are unable to provide what we know the patient needs.”

Bucks’ student nurse Estelle Kabia experienced moral injury whilst helping patients at Hammersmith and Fulham’s Mental Health Unit. “Sometimes I felt moral injury as we were picking up new practical skills whilst dealing with sick patients coming in. But it would come and then go, because after a few weeks I could see the impact I had.

“In one way, stepping up was nerve-wracking but it also gave me the passion to go out there and help. You’re treated as a professional, not a student. I had no fear when I was on the ward.”

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Estelle’s experiences are described further in the book, a collaboration between Buckinghamshire New University’s School of Nursing and Allied Health and Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL). All book proceeds will be donated to the CNWL Charitable Fund, which supports staff and service users within the Trust.

The book brings together the thoughts of 22 frontline professionals, including clinicians, nurses, therapists, doctors, academics, and people with lived experience of COVID-19, reflecting on what they expected, what they saw, and how this impacted them. The concept of fear is the underlying theme throughout the book, which combines first-hand accounts with academic research and details the clear strategies put in place to make clinical decision-making easier.

Margaret Rioga, Associate Head of School in the School of Nursing and Allied Health at Buckinghamshire New University, edited the book alongside fellow academics Mary Mosoeunyane, David Rawcliffe and Kevin Acott.

“The COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on everybody and created fear within us like never before. This book shows that fear doesn’t define or take away the skills and experience of medical professionals, but rather helps them to grow a new way of thinking and working. When our students were called into practice, it gave them a true sense of what nursing is. They helped to saved lives and became superheroes in their local communities.”

Professor David Sines, Emeritus Professor and Associate at Buckinghamshire New University, reviewed the book before publication. “Our student nurses have risen to the challenge by joining the front line of the NHS nursing care response and have demonstrated a sustained and dedicated sense of duty and selfless determination to provide compassionate and effective care solutions to our patients and their families. It is commendable that they have applied their time and skills empathetically, courageously and effectively in a true spirit of altruism.”

The book is available to purchase in paperback and for Kindle.