Learning and growth, the principal assessment from nursing students who worked during the first wave of the pandemic

This is one of the conclusions obtained from the study led by the Department of Nursing, which sought to discover the impact felt by final-year students from the Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing who joined the working world to help fight COVID-19

Despite the shortage of personal protective equipment, the risk of infection to themselves and their family members, and the pandemic’s negative impact on mental health, the fourth-year nursing students thrived in the face of adversity, grew on a personal level, gained a greater sense of professional identity and shifted their values. These themes are illustrated in the study led by researchers and lecturers from the Department of Nursing, published in the Journal of Professional Nursing

Titled “Nursing students on the frontline: Impact and personal and professional gains of joining the health care workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic in Spain, the study explores the experiences of final-year nursing students in Catalonia who volunteered to work alongside frontline staff during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic (March-May 2020). The qualitative analysis of more than 40 students’ journal entries revealed four main themes describing their experiences over that period: the impact of their experience, a desire to help, the sense of moral duty, an opportunity to learn, a greater sense of professional identity and personal growth. “The results of this study are of huge importance as they allow us to understand how final-year students face these types of situations of great emotional impact, helping us to more fully and comprehensively educate future healthcare workers,” explain the leading authors.

This is the latest in a series of studies already published by the Department of Nursing: “Coronials: Nurses who graduated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Will they be better nurses?", explores the effects of the pandemic on final-year students and describes the emotional support system deployed by the Department of Nursing to help support and guide students who worked during the first wave of the pandemic; and “Experiences and needs of nursing students during pandemic outbreaks: A systemic overview of the literature", in which researchers demonstrate the importance of creating a learning strategy to help nursing students feel inspired and confident to cope with future pandemics, as it was observed that the better their training, the greater their desire to help.

The three studies form part of a line of research that aims to analyse how best to teach nursing students to cope with these types of situations. “In addition, we are also working on a new study that will help us understand how students are able to successfully cope with such a negative impact on mental health, whilst professional nurses can be seriously affected”, say the researchers.