The School of Health Studies (SHS) functions so as to facilitate and produce competent, confident and critical thinking Registered Nurses to improve quality of care for patients and improve health outcomes. The SHS teach, assess and manage the BSc (Hons) Nursing programme based in Gibraltar with clinicians and other staff. When somebody makes a decision to become a nurse, they are making one of the most important decision of their lives as they choose to commit themselves to the care and support of other people.
In and around February when COVID-19 was beginning to gather momentum in Europe and in March 2020 when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the SHS had, on clinical placement, over twenty five student nurses. Of these student nurses, twelve had just over 6 months before they qualified and registered with the Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting Registration Board Gibraltar taking up Newly Qualified Staff Nurse posts across the Gibraltar Health Authority (GHA). This last 6 months of student nurse education and training is an important period as the student consolidates their programme of study preparing them to become a member of the nursing workforce, this pandemic was about to throw the future of their nurse education programmes into doubt.
As the GHA’s major incident policy was activated provision had to be made for the qualifying group of students to complete their nurse education with least disruption to their study. It was essential to ensure that all of the stringent criteria for entry to the professional register were met so they were able to join the workforce.
The Director of Nursing, Head of School and SHS staff approached students with a number of options with regards to their remaining 6 months on the programme. Students could have deferred their education until a later date, or they could, with support from clinicians and SHS staff continue working on the front line until their course has completed. All of the student nurses, within a heartbeat, did not have to think twice about stepping up, they all opted to remain in practice and on the front line. With students saying they could not just sit at home, they wanted to use their skills to help and be part of the team.
This dedication and commitment to completing their programme of study, continuing to gain experience, to undertake their final assessments and supporting the nursing workforce demonstrates professionalism and a desire to help others. These are key attributes of any Registered Nurse.
As Head of School, I am proud of the decisions that the students made, proud that they stepped up to the plate. They have truly made a difference and faced the challenges of COVID-19 in professional and educated way. The next generation of Registered Nurses will be an asset to the organisation and to the health and wellbeing of those who require their support, taking on challenges and seizing opportunity against a backdrop of the unknown. The GHA and SHS wish these Newly Qualified Staff Nurses much continued success as they enter the profession of Nursing in this, the dedicated WHO Year of the Nurse, 2020 also marks the bicentenary Florence Nightingale’s birth.