Birmingham Heroes: Student Nurses

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Since the outbreak of COVID-19 we’ve seen so many changes to our way of life, so many tragedies but also so much bravery, particularly on the part of our NHS.

So we wanted to take this opportunity to shine a light on some of our Birmingham Heroes - our Student Nurses and say thank you for everything they’ve done, all whilst working towards their degrees.

Here’s how they’ve been getting on during the pandemic, how they’ve braved the NHS frontline and how they’ve fought to keep going to protect the general public.


Shannon Smith – 2nd Year Adult nursing

From the outset nursing has been an incredibly challenging degree - spending 50% of our time in lectures and 50% in practice aiming to meet the NMC requirement of 2300 hours in order for to qualify.

We work days, nights and weekends for free in the NHS and endeavour at all times to be on our best form, being as proactive as we can on placement to prove to our mentors that we’re meeting all the requirements to sign off. This can be emotionally taxing and very difficult to balance with a “normal uni life” but nevertheless going into this degree was the best decision I’ve made, despite how hard it is.

Since COVID-19 has come to the UK, it has offered an extreme challenge for the NHS to cope alongside calling up many of our lecturing staff from the nursing school to work on the frontline. For second year students this also led us to make a decision; we have the option to go into practice joining the third years for the next 6 months, working full time as well as completing our studies up until the start of the academic year, or continue on the academic work for the oncoming year, like our dissertation and make up the placement hour requirements, that we would miss out on, next year.

Although I am grateful for the choice component offered it is incredibly challenging to choose what’s right for every student, and personally I am incredibly proud of any second or third years choosing to opt in to an extended placement or put your academic studies, your health and families first. This is a decision I know a lot of people have struggled with, knowing what is best for you and recognising your own competency does not make you any less of an amazing nurse.


Zoe - 2nd Year Children’s Nurse and President of the Nursing Society


I have chosen the extended placement because for me I was keen to help, particularly in a time where the profession we’re entering is working so hard!

It’s been fantastic to see the lecturers helping in clinical practice where they can as well and I think working during a pandemic will give us invaluable skills.

Seeing how students and staff have responded, whether they’ve opted in or out makes me even prouder to be a student nurse at UoB and a member of Nurse Soc committee.



Charlotte Fearn - 3rd Year Student Children's Nurse

Charlotte Fearn Attending placement as a final year student nurse during a pandemic is a once in a lifetime learning opportunity, being on the 'frontline' treating against a deadly virus is something that will stay with me throughout my career as a nurse and beyond. It has brought about challenges and uncertainty, but knowing that this will make me part of a unique generation of nurses is keeping me going, alongside the motivated and hardworking nurses and doctors on the ward.

I admire all of my student nurse colleagues battling this virus who remain strong and determined despite us all having to make big and difficult decisions regarding the remainder of our degree. At the end of April I am being deployed to the NHS for 6 months to work full time on the frontline, allowing me to finish my degree this year, but this will also bring unique stresses and challenges which I am yet to face as I continue to undertake academic work alongside this placement.

For as long as patients need me I will be there for them, I am so privileged to be able to look after some of the most vulnerable children in Birmingham and make a difference to their health. The support, recognition and appreciation that the public, my family and my friends have shown me is incredible - it makes all the difference.


Sarah Cribben - 3rd Year Student Children's Nurse

Sarah Cribben Being a third year student nurse out on placement at the moment is both terrifying and exciting. I am told I am working on the ‘frontline’, but I am in exactly the same place that I have been for the last three years: a children’s hospital.

Working with children during this pandemic makes it so worthwhile, yet so sad. Although we don’t have many confirmed cases at this point with children, I am working on a respiratory ward so we do have some COVID patients and I'm not going to lie, it is hard. It is relentless, exhausting, and overwhelmingly sad. Some of these children don’t have anyone with them; babies on their own as their family cannot visit them without leaving again and children potentially dying without seeing their family. For us it is a scary time, just imagine how they must be feeling. That is why we do it though, because they need us to, as much as I am tired and stressed, with both uni work and placement, I wouldn’t change it for anything.

I do fear that we may run out of PPE due to improper use by some, so we need to be sensible with this or we are going to endanger ourselves, we really need to work together as a team. But one thing that I cannot stress enough is that I couldn’t do it without the support of my friends and family, my amazing mentor and the ward as a whole – the staff have come together as a family to look out for one another. I understand that no one really knows what to say to me right now, but a little positivity and love goes a long way. 

Grace Williams - 3rd Year Student Nurse

Grace Williams It’s very daunting to be told, albeit but rumours, that you’re going to qualify early. It’s probably one of the most confusing and difficult times to be a nurse or a student, let alone a student nurse.

All of our friends have had university suspended or moved online which means most of them have moved back home leaving us even more isolated than we usually feel on placement. They also have had much more clarity about their degrees than what we have had because placement makes up such a large part of ours and isn’t something that can just be ‘moved online’. It’s really tested my dedication to nursing.

The whole team where I am currently on placement have been amazing. Very supportive of their current students and are dealing with the pandemic extremely well and very efficiently despite the changes in policies, especially involving visiting. The support from the general public toward the NHS has also been amazing.



Elise Davis – The Combined Efforts of Healthcare Students at UOB

Thanks to three medical students; Alice, Lydia and Jess, a National Health Supporters Group (NHSG) for the UHB trust has been set up. It is now incredibly easy for anyone who wants to volunteer to do so. Linking local healthcare professionals in need of help, local medical students and medical students who are at home. These three amazing students are playing a huge part in the effort to combat COVID-19.

Without the efforts of medical, nursing and other students combined, the NHSG would not have succeeded. University of Birmingham students are having a real impact on the current crisis in hospitals, homes and healthcare settings across the country.  Many are childminding for healthcare workers, volunteering in hospitals, working for 111 or simply delivering supplies. The work being done by all is absolutely necessary. Thank you to anyone and everyone who is risking their health to support the outstanding efforts of the NHS at this critical time.


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