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Nursing life at Birmingham City University duing COVID-19

With the current Coronavirus pandemic, our Return to Practice (RTP) Nursing course has been more important than ever to get qualified and skilled nurses back in to the healthcare system. We spoke to Chris Jones, Course Leader for RTP and Senior Lecturer in Child Nursing, about how the University is adapting.

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“On 11 March the World Health Organisation officially declared the Covid-19 pandemic, which in turn led to considerable changes beyond all recognition for our staff and students in terms of work, study and home life. For Return to Practice (RTP) Nursing, this has provided a number of challenges, particularly for the students due to start in April 2020 as their course began just as the University closed all its buildings. The restrictions meant that these students have had a very different experience than what they - and we - had anticipated.

Taking action

As course lead, this provided me with a number of challenges that needed to be addressed over a short period of time, including sessions that had to be re-written quickly to allow delivery online via Microsoft teams, and placement practice documents that had to be adapted to meet the new assessment standards. Not being able to access the building also presented challenges, including delivering mandatory clinical sessions, occupational health reviews, uniform allocation and distribution of placement documents.

As well as teaching our RTP students, we also needed to consider how we were going to up-skill many of our final year BSc (Hons) Nursing students who had volunteered to do an extended placement in hospitals to provide extra support to overstretched NHS staff.

As a team, we made plans to give our April 2020 students the chance to hone and learn the clinical skills they needed within the University by using larger teaching spaces, using individual equipment and consumables (such as masks and gloves), and maintaining social distancing.

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A team effort

I’m so proud of what we've achieved, and the support I personally received from my manager, the course co-ordinator, Head of School, the Quality and Placement team leads and the Patient Handling team. They have been a constant source of support and reassurance, and have ensured that every challenge presented has been addressed, and confirmed that the needs of our RTP students are not lost during a complex and vast process of student support. This demonstrates how highly BCU values returning practitioners and recognises the role they will play in the current and future nursing workforce.

This experience also reinforces how amazing our students are. The RTP students have shown real commitment and made some sacrifices in attempting to return to nursing even before the pandemic started. Since the onset of the pandemic they've faced a number of challenges that are beyond their control, including having the “student experience” taken away from them by not being able to sit in a classroom with peers, have a drink in the coffee bars and at the Students' Union, or getting physical access to the library and onsite IT facilities. Added to this they have also had changes to their course layout and complications in regards to starting placement. As a University we have worked hard to ensure we are providing alternatives but this demonstrates the importance of face-to-face interactions as part of the educational experience as well being “human”.

It is of great credit to them that throughout the challenges, they have been honest, thankful and supportive in their approach, and I am incredibly proud of them and honoured to be their course lead.

A new future?

This pandemic has changed our lives personally and professionally and things will never return to what we knew. There will be major challenges in relation to how RTP (and other healthcare courses) are delivered in the future. However, it is clear that even at the worst of times, from the top to bottom of the University, our commitment to supporting our students as individuals is unequivocal.

Our message to you is don’t let these times stop you. If you are currently considering applying for a Return to Practice course (or are inspired to start a nursing degree), please do it! Your experience is needed in supporting the nursing workforce now more than ever. It will be tough and it will challenge you (anything important and worthwhile will) but you will be supported, believed in and we will advocate for you.

Inspired to find out more?

You can learn more about our Return to Practice Nursing course on our website. Courses start in April and September.

Find out more