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The psychological effects of working in the NHS during a pandemic on final-year students: part 2

27 January 2022
12 min read
Volume 31 · Issue 2

Abstract

This study explored the psychological experience of a small cohort of nursing and midwifery students who had been deployed to work in the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic. The students were employed on band 4 contracts within an acute NHS Trust in the South of England. Overall, students found the experience of being deployed into clinical practice during a major public health emergency a valuable and unique experience that strengthened their resilience. However, students reported a significant level of personal obligation to opt-in to deployment. Working within clinical areas caused heightened anxiety and uncertainty, which was alleviated by managerial support.

At the time of writing, more than 151 342 people within the UK have died from the coronavirus within 28 days of a positive test for SARS-CoV-2 infection, with 174 233 deaths recorded with COVID-19 on a death certificate. At the peak of the pandemic in January 2021, 39 250 patients were admitted to hospital (https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/). Healthcare workers have had more than a seven-fold higher risk of severe COVID-19 in comparison with the general population, whereas those working in social care and transport occupations have had a two-fold higher risk, with non-white essential workers being at the highest risk of severe infection (Mutambudzi et al, 2021).

This article tentatively suggests that a relationship exists between being a nursing or midwifery student deployed during a public health emergency, the experience of delivering healthcare during a pandemic, and the level of moral distress experienced by students who deployed into clinical practice. A key characteristic of the moral distress experienced by participants in this study related to the sense of obligation they felt when making their deployment decision.

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