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12 May 2020

Q&A: Working on the frontline as a recent graduate

Jesse Boxall-Steeden graduated in February 2020 with a BSc in Adult Nursing and now works on the frontline in ICU at a Kent hospital. He discusses his first critical care role amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Which hospital do you work at, and what is your role within the hospital?
I work at the Medway Maritime Hospital as a Critical Care Nurse.

How has your role changed since the coronavirus pandemic?
Since the pandemic, we now spend our 13-hour shifts wearing hazmat suits, FFP3 masks and a whole heap of personal protective equipment (PPE). My area became a small Covid-19 unit caring for patients in need of non-invasive ventilation, I was then moved to a larger area to accommodate more patients with Covid-19, and I have now been redeployed to Intensive Care to care for the people who have been most affected by this horrible virus, who have had to be intubated and put on ventilators to allow their lungs and the rest of their body a break in order to recover, whilst we provide organ support to assist in the recovery process.

As a recent graduate, how has your training and education helped prepare you for this situation?
Our training, through a variety of placement and academic means have helped to prepare me for this situation by being aware of the range of needs my patients may have. We are not just dealing with Covid-19, we are caring for a person and their family, and must act holistically and with compassion to look out for that person’s interests and enhance person-centred care if they are unable to express their needs themselves.

University has taught me to think critically and analyse my practice and the research around me. Given that Covid-19 is very new for us, there is new information and changing guidelines daily which we must keep informed of as best practices can change. The variety of placement settings I experienced as a student have enabled me to think pragmatically on my feet and act swiftly in an emergency situation, whilst also planning and coordinating for possible events and tasks to be completed in a timed manner throughout the shift.

What has been your experience during the pandemic?
My experience through the pandemic has been filled with both uncertainty and excitement, from starting in a respiratory high dependency unit where we expected to be busy but had no idea of the difference in nursing patients with Covid-19 compared to other conditions, to being moved to work in intensive care and learning to use lifesaving equipment on the job.

It has been emotionally and physically draining spending 13-hour shifts in hot and sweaty PPE, not knowing the answer when a patient asks you if they will survive or how long they will be unconscious for when intubated, holding the hands of patients who took their last breath without their families present and making those heart-breaking phone calls to break bad news.

However, every cloud has a silver lining and the camaraderie from my university classmates and my team at work has been paramount in getting through the pandemic mentally. Words of encouragement and support from our old lecturers and university staff have also been key in keeping morale up.

Jesse wearing personal protective equipment on his shiftJesse wearing personal protective equipment on his shift

How has your experience on the frontline affected you?
It has helped me to appreciate the little things like seeing loved ones in person and the ability to hug friends and family.

By working on the frontline it has helped me think and act tactically on my feet and take each challenge in my stride and as a learning opportunity - if we can work through this ‘once in a generation’ pandemic as newly qualified nurses, then what can’t we do!?

Do you have any messages for the public on how they can support you and other healthcare workers?
Please stay home! We are slowly managing to keep on top of this outbreak but it will not go away for good. Across the country people have died unnecessarily due to poor planning and going into lockdown too late - please abide by lockdown regulations and social distance. By keeping yourselves and your loved ones safe at a distance you can support healthcare workers by reducing the volume of those affected by Covid-19 and in turn lockdown will be lifted sooner and a new “normal” can commence!

Related courses

BsC Nursing 


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Last edited: 15/01/2020 11:19:00