Student nurses who conquered fears to battle Covid share their experiences in new book

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Lucy Watson

Student nurses who were recruited to work on frontline NHS services to respond to the coronavirus crisis have shared their stories in a new book.

The trainees faced the daunting task of being placed in frontline positions at hospitals around the country whilst finishing their studies amid a global pandemic.

Now, some have written about the personal and professional challenges that inspired them to flourish at a time of national crisis.

Entitled Living with Fear: Reflections on Covid-19, the book tells the stories of 22 nurses and other frontline professionals reflecting on what they experienced and how it impacted them.

Ikra Majid reads from the book. Credit: ITV News

Student nurse Ikra Majid did placements at various hospitals in London and Hertfordshire during the pandemic.

She now works at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield.

"There did get to a point where I thought, why I am I doing this, it’s too much. I didn’t sign up for this pandemic," she said.

"We have to make the best of it. As people say, when life gives you lemons you make lemonade. I tried to make the sweetest lemonade possible.”

She added: “The pandemic has made me realise even more what an important job we do.”

The pandemic has made me realise even more what an important job we do.

Student nurse Ikra Majid

Another one of the authors, Estelle Kabia, helped patients at the Hammersmith & Fulham Mental Health Unit during the pandemic.

"Covid taught me to be the nurse I want to be," she said. "It's an unbelievable feeling, I don't think I will ever do anything as big in my whole life."

Estelle Kabia helped patients at the Hammersmith & Fulham Mental Health Unit. Credit: ITV News

The book also explores the concept of 'moral injury' where nurses feel unable to provide the care the patient needs leaving them to question their own ability.

Ms Kabia said: "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."

Claudia Sabeta, who finished her postgraduate course specialising in mental health nursing at Buckinghamshire New University this summer, worked at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow helping vulnerable and elderly mental health patients.

She said: "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."

Credit: ITV News

In July, thousands of student nurses recruited to work on the front line had their placements cut short, plunging some of them into financial despair.

In mid-April, NHS England reported that nearly 15,000 student nurses, midwives and medical students had joined “frontline NHS teams as part of the nationwide coronavirus fightback”.

Proceeds from the book will go to the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) Charitable Fund, which supports staff and service users.

Dr Scott Galloway, one of the book's authors and Chief Clinical Information Officer at CNWL, 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."

One of the book's editors Margaret Rioga, Associate Head of School in the School of Nursing and Allied Health at Buckinghamshire New University, said: "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."