Duke and Duchess of Cambridge speak to Ulster University nursing students

The Duke and Duchess speak to (L-R): nursing lecturer Stephanie Dunleavey and year three nursing students Elizabeth (Lisa) Semerdzhieva, Rachel Reid, Paige Murray. Credit: Kensington Palace

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have spoken to nursing students from Ulster University via video call to hear more about their experiences of studying during the pandemic, and of undertaking placements on the frontline of the Covid-19 response in Northern Ireland. On Tuesday Their Royal Highnesses firstly spoke to Abigail McGarvey, a first-year Adult Nursing student, about a video diary she created to demonstrate a typical shift during her first placement as a student nurse.

Abigail told The Duke and Duchess about some of the challenges she had faced, including the emotional impact of patients being unable to receive visits from their families.

She also spoke about her experience of starting university during a pandemic, and the impact that Covid-19 has had on her ability to socialise and learn with fellow students in person due to lockdown restrictions and a subsequent increase in online learning.

Abigail McGarvey, Year 1 Nursing Student. Credit: Kensington Palace

Prince William asked her: "I imagine it's been totally crazy and very difficult to kind of find your feet and just head on fire the whole time, is that right?" Abigail replied: "It isn't ideal and it is unfortunate, because you have your patients and they can't see their families, and there are some who have been in the hospital for months and they don't have anyone else to talk to apart from us." "Do you think this time has been really hard and really difficult for lots of young people?" Kate asked.

"Definitely, not being able to go and even and chat to your friends and go into their house, I think it's really a massive struggle and not being able to just rant and tell them everything that happened in your day and just have a hug. I think that's what a lot of people miss is just having a hug."

Their Royal Highnesses then joined a video call with a group of second and third year students taking part in practical clinical sessions at the University’s Magee Campus in Londonderry.

Both cohorts undertook placements during the first wave of the pandemic, with many opting to extend their placements in order to continue to support the frontline workforce. During the call, the students discussed their appreciation for the invaluable experiences they have gained working on the frontline, and the support they received from the university during this challenging period. Ranked in the top 50 nursing schools in the world, Ulster University’s School of Nursing is one of the largest programmes at Ulster University, with approximately 1600 students registered in the School.

At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, students were asked to join the frontline. Student placements were adapted to meet the needs and demands of the health service, with the majority of students being placed in Covid-19 areas in both hospital and community settings.

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