Students have been thanked for supporting the NHS as a cohort of 18 allied health professional (AHP), nursing and midwifery students were welcomed to North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust (NCIC) this week.
Speaking at the induction event for the students, Penny Parsons, Interim Associate Director of AHPs, gave a warm welcome to everyone and said: “We’re excited to have you join the Trust; these are very uncertain times and we’re very grateful for you opting to come and support our patients and staff.
“Each group of students that has joined the Trust in recent months has had a great impact on staff morale, helping to boost team spirit, and also reassuring teams that previously had limited numbers of staff.”
As part of the response to COVID-19, nursing, midwifery and AHP students across the country that are in their second and third year of training have been given the option to undertake a clinical placement for the period, so that they can continue their programme while contributing to clinical services.
Anne-Marie Weller, Head of Nursing, Clinical Education and Practice Development at NCIC, joined in thanking the students, and discussed the ways that services have changed during the pandemic:
“The NHS is working in a very different way now, for example having to use PPE when treating patients, or in many cases not having face to face consultations and instead using remote consultation where possible.
“It’s a testament to how well the NHS can adapt, and how staff can learn new skills as we cope with major events like this.
“As these changes require a whole different skill set, we also want you to feel supported and confident that you have the skills to come and work in this environment.”
Norman Lau and Antonios Abdel are both physiotherapy students from University of Cumbria now joining the Trust. Speaking at the induction event they said: “We’re glad to be joining the NHS and helping out. We’re looking forward to working with staff and helping to support people as we put our skills and training to use.”
Amanda Kennett, Associate Director of Midwifery, has expressed how grateful the Trust is to midwifery students who have been working through the pandemic alongside maternity teams. She said: “Currently there are five student midwives at West Cumberland Hospital, and seven at Cumberland Infirmary and Penrith Birth Centre. We’re so thankful to have students working with us – they really make an invaluable contribution to the service and to women and babies.”
Michaela Douma undertook a placement at the birthing centre in Penrith in the midst of the pandemic as part of her studies. She said: “All of the team have supported and encouraged my learning which has meant I have continued to benefit as a student from a wide range of antenatal and postnatal care experiences.
“Due to Covid-19, maternity services have had to make a number of changes to the way care is delivered, which includes asking women to attend appointments and ultrasound scans alone. This can understandably create some anxiety and fear for the women who are often going through one of the most special times in their lives and one that they want to share with their partners, family and friends. During my time at Penrith, I have been able to offer support and build up good relationships to ensure the women feel comfortable to attend their antenatal care alone but still feel supported.
“It is an absolute honour and privilege to be a midwife and a career choice I’d encourage anyone thinking of becoming a midwife, to go ahead and achieve.”
Anne-Marie Weller said: “We want to ensure that the students are given a positive experience during the placement, and hope that by doing this they will consider staying with us when they complete their placements and register as nurses, midwives and AHPs.”
“Each student has been allocated a ‘Cumbria Custodian’, who they can speak to for both practical support, and also emotional and wellbeing support, whilst they work at the Trust.
“We recognise that these are unprecedented times, and hope that by staying connected to the students and ensuring they are able to raise any concerns and anxieties they have, we can develop learning that meets their needs and enables them to provide the best possible hospital experience for our patients.”
The induction event is taking place at the University of Cumbria’s Fusehill Street Campus in Carlisle, and special social distancing measures have been implemented throughout the process, to ensure the students stay at least two metres away from each other.
The local community has also been keen to welcome the students to their placements, and as a token of appreciation Richard Ferris, from Leave a Light On, has coordinated lunch and refreshments for the students throughout the process.
Throughout the placements, students will also be able to learn about the many development opportunities on offer at NCIC, in the hope that they will choose to stay at the Trust when they complete their training.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council and the Health and Care Professions Council have also agreed to suspend the usual supernumerary status for students, and the students have instead been offered the opportunity to commence temporary formal contracts and take up paid NHS healthcare positions within the Trust.
The cohort taking part in this week’s induction is made up of students from University of Cumbria and Northumbria University, and includes students from physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nursing and midwifery.
These students are being drafted into placement on an emergency rota basis. However, it is still voluntary and they can opt-out if they choose.
It’s estimated that this approach could increase the NHS workforce in Cumbria and North Lancashire by an additional 352 student nurses.