19/04/2021 | Press releases

Student nurse works on ward to help during pandemic

Meet Alex – a student nurse who volunteered to opt into a scheme to enable students to be part of the paid workforce to help care for hospital patients during the pandemic.

Working with the acute medical team at Colchester Hospital he was straight in at the deep end, caring for a patient with respiratory failure, treating complex wounds and supporting a patient to manage a chronic condition, all as part of a usual nursing shift.

Alex O’Shaughnessy is one of 111 healthcare students deployed into paid placements at East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust to help support the NHS over the last few months.

The 20-year-old student nurse is in his final year at the University of Essex studying a BSc in adult nursing. While half of his degree requires his learning to be supported and assessed in the clinical areas as a ‘supernumerary student’, most of which have been at Colchester Hospital, when asked to return and work on the wards to put all his training into practice, he didn’t hesitate.

Alex was placed on Colchester Hospital’s AMSDEC unit (Acute Medical Same Day Emergency Care) where he’s been working since the beginning of February.

Alex said: “Our skills are advanced enough in practice to be able to work now – and obviously we are overseen by a senior member of staff on every shift too.”

Alex O’Shaughnessy

Therese Elliott, head of clinical education and workforce, has been arranging the placements. She said: “As a third-year student Alex has a greater level of experience and knowledge to support patients while also being able to continue to undertake his practice learning as a student.”

Alex said nursing has been his dream career since he was a child. “I had to have a couple of surgeries as a kid, so hospitals were familiar to me. It’s always been my passion to want to be a nurse.

“Going to work and trying to improve someone’s life is a great reward. I genuinely love it. Knowing I’m making a bit of a difference is empowering.”

Alex O’Shaughnessy

Alex said shifts can mean you see people with a wide range of needs and reasons for being in hospital. He said it has been hard and at times “gruelling” during the pandemic but the teams are amazing and all in it together.

As Alex, who lives in Colchester, is working while a student nurse he’s called an ‘aspirant nurse’ and being paid for the shifts he covers, while still under the supervision of a qualified nurse.

He said: “It’s been a real help to be paid as student nurses don’t get a bursary at the moment and we don’t have the time to work alongside our studies. So as well as be able to gain more experience, the money has really helped too.”

Student nurses were placed in their existing location, so as Alex’s last placement was on AMSDEC that’s where he remained. AMSDEC is a unit linked to the emergency department for treating patients.

Therese added: “The Trust has been overwhelmed by the support of those students who opted into the deployed paid placements.

“I am extremely proud of the way those students who were able to deploy, managed to continue with their learning whilst also being such a valuable asset in supporting not only our patients, but our teams.

Although in the second wave only final year nursing students were called to support the workforce, we mustn’t forget all the other students from various nursing, midwifery and allied healthcare professions who were also deployed at the beginning of the pandemic.”

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