Beds celebrates frontline heroesFri 02 July, 2021
The 5th July 2021 marks NHS, Social Work & Front Line Workers Day and the University of Bedfordshire is celebrating its students and colleagues who are working and volunteering in the fields of healthcare, policing and social care.
The National Health Service (NHS) was launched in 1948 on 5th July, offering free healthcare to everyone in the UK. With the frontline and healthcare services proving invaluable during the Covid-19 pandemic, the NHS, Social Care & Front Line Worker Day is a chance for people to express their gratitude to all NHS and frontline staff, and to remember those who lost their lives to the disease.
Reflecting on this celebratory day, Dr Louise Grant, Executive Dean of Health & Social Sciences, said: “As an elected Governor for the Bedfordshire NHS Hospitals Trust and in my key strategic relationships with local authorities and voluntary organisations, I am always amazed by the commitment and drive to address health inequality and promote social justice.
“Our students and staff are our ambassadors and their contribution throughout Covid-19 as volunteers, trainees and as deployed workers has been hugely impressive. Working with our partners in the voluntary sector, the NHS and Local Authorities is a key part of what we do and together we hope to shape the workforce of the future.”
Dr Grant is incredibly proud of her Faculty’s students and staff – as well as people in the local community – for the support they have given the NHS and one another during the pandemic. She said:
“Thursday nights during lockdown were, for many, an opportunity to clap for carers. Frontline workers were celebrated for their contribution to the country. Nurses, social workers, midwives and paramedics became people we looked up to and admired – and for the first time in my career neighbours and friends were curious about my profession and what I was doing to support the nation’s response to the pandemic.
“The response from staff and students in our Faculty to the pandemic has been immense and a huge thank you must go out to all of them as they have adapted and changed to the challenges faced. Leading a Faculty which educates health, social care and social work students is a huge responsibility and something I am very proud to do.”
The pandemic has inspired the nation, with interest from prospective students about healthcare courses soaring. The University of Bedfordshire offers a vast range of healthcare and social science courses, including Mental Health Nursing, Professional Policing, Occupational Therapy, Midwifery, Child & Adolescent Studies and Operating Department Practice. The institution prides itself in training the next generation of frontline workers for the region and wider community.
Professor Rebecca Bunting, Vice Chancellor, said: “The University of Bedfordshire plays a very significant role locally, nationally and internationally in training and developing the workforce for the health service, social care and public health more widely.
“It’s a role we delight in and one only made possible by our excellent partnerships and collaborations which deliver high quality academic courses and professional practice. Together we ensure that the current and future workforce can be best in class.”
She added: “University staff and students have given tirelessly of their skills and time as frontline workers in the pandemic, a collective effort demonstrating commitment, deep care for others and enormous resilience. As a nation we are indebted to them and as Vice Chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire I am both immensely proud and moved by their professionalism and courage.”
To celebrate the skillset and variety of frontline courses the University offers, a number of students and staff have shared their thoughts on the importance of the NHS, social care and other ‘blue light’ roles – and what their chosen careers mean to them...
Natasja Collins – Adult Nursing student (Luton campus)
- What does the NHS mean to you? To me, it is a place of safety. At all NHS hospitals we strive to be that place of refuge and recovery for our patients. I think, as a country, we don’t always understand how amazing it is to have such a brilliant healthcare system. We are so lucky and we need to protect it for as long as possible, so we can keep getting the many benefits it provides.
- What is the most rewarding part of being a student nurse? There’s so many... knowing that you’ve made a difference to people, being able to get patients to smile and laugh with you, being there for a family going through a difficult time, or being there for a patient who can’t have family there with them. Most memorably, having a patient who remembered me on the ward and meeting me again in A&E and hearing her tell her husband about the ‘lovely nurse from the ward’. It’s about being that nurse, the one that people remember as kind, compassionate and helpful – it’s what I always aim for and it is so rewarding to be able to be that person for someone.
- Have you always wanted to be a nurse? I always wanted a job helping people but it wasn’t until I had work experience in a hospital at the age of 17 that I realised nursing was what I wanted to do. I also volunteered for St John Ambulance for seven years before starting university, so there was always that interest in healthcare. I wouldn’t change my degree in nursing for the world.
- How did working and learning throughout the pandemic impact your role and career plans? Working in the pandemic was really difficult, but so was being a student. Unfortunately online classes just aren’t the same as the real thing, although I do appreciate the extra work lecturers did to ensure our well-being in placement and during the stay at home orders. I worked as a paid employee (while retaining my role of student) in intensive care, and I really did see some of the worst things possible and the devastating effects of Covid-19. If anything, it made me more driven to protect and promote public health in my future career.
- What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a nurse or healthcare worker? First, make sure it’s what you really want to do – the best thing is to gain some experience in a hospital or healthcare setting, either school based work experience or volunteering. It’s best to know what you will be getting into as it is a hard career, however many of us who go into it believe it is worth it. Remember to prioritise rest and your own personal wellbeing, especially on days off. Know that we’ve all been through it, the exams, the stress, the patients that get under our skin, and know that wherever you go there is someone you can talk to if anything gets too much. Also, working as a student nurse is amazing and difficult – you see things on a daily basis that the average person would be unlikely to see in their lifetime. Depending on where your placement is, you have the opportunity to see life from birth to death, trauma to recovery, and diagnosis to treatment. Working for the NHS is a wonderful thing and not a service to be taken lightly. We are more than ‘just a nurse’, we are like therapists, teachers, friends, carers, and often the first people you see when you come into the hospital. We take care of you and do what is best for you if you’re unable to decide for yourself.
Find out about studying Adult Nursing at the Luton campus, here.
Jasmine Messent – Mental Health Nursing student
- What does the NHS mean to you? Safe, efficient and accessible health to all, especially those who otherwise would be at a disadvantage by virtue of their socio-economic status.
- What is the most rewarding part of your role as a student mental health nurse? The realisation that mental illness can affect anyone and everyone. In that knowledge, being able to give back some care and support and making a positive difference in someone's mental health and well-being, especially during the uncertainties posed by the global pandemic.
- Have you always wanted to be a mental health professional? No but I have always wanted to care for others. I guess all my life experiences have prepared and geared me towards becoming a mental health nurse – I wouldn't have it any other way!
- How did working and learning throughout the pandemic impact you and your role or career plans? It was challenging and difficult initially. However, I developed more compassion, courage, empathy and commitment as a student in the face of such unprecedented adversities after observing how healthcare professionals pulled together. To me, a demonstration of such attributes epitomises the very essence of being a nurse and has left me truly inspired. As an aspiring professional, I sincerely believe these observations challenged my competencies even more in terms of building resilience, where I have had to learn and adapt to newer and innovative ways of delivering care. Not only has service provision been accommodating to remote access, but I also witnessed it provide an alternative way of working in healthcare, positively transforming service delivery and allowing continuity of care provision for the foreseeable future. This gives me a lot of hope and excitement for my future career and I eagerly anticipate what lies ahead!
- What advice would you give someone wanting to study and work in mental health? Utilise all your support networks. There is definitely no shame in asking for help when you need it. Most importantly, please never look back, keep going and looking forward and I promise you will never regret it!
Find out about studying Mental Health Nursing, here.
Tom Walker – Paramedic Science student
- What does the NHS mean to you? Being part of a family that never stops caring for the health of everyone.
- What is the most rewarding part of your role as a student Paramedic? Stepping into the life of the people who need help and doing what we can to give them that help.
- Have you always wanted to be a paramedic? Not always but volunteering with St John Ambulance helped guide me towards starting my journey to become a Paramedic.
- How did working and learning throughout the pandemic impact you and your role or career plans? The impact the pandemic has had on my journey to being a paramedic is profound and the challenges it created were great. Working through these challenges, undertaking work and learning via opportunities throughout the pandemic has been an amazing experience which I won’t ever forget. As a result, I am more aware of how fragile and stressed the ambulance services are (responding to emergency calls over 24 hours old while supporting London Ambulance Service), but how resilient, versatile and adept we are as a profession.
- What advice would you give someone wanting to become a paramedic? You can do it, it’s an amazing profession with an always changing role that holds the potential to deliver so much to so many. There are opportunities in not only clinical settings such as ambulances, helicopters and GP surgeries, but also research, teaching and leadership. It’s not what the media always makes it out to be and it’s not all just about life-saving interventions, so be prepared to put aside preconceptions and presumptions and be challenged!
Find out about studying Paramedic Science, here.
Russell Murden – Policing Lecturer
- What does the role of frontline workers mean to you? For me it is all about the individuals providing vital services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Their efforts all too often go unnoticed, unless something goes wrong. If you work in such a role you feel part of a team – family almost – and you are involved in a job that can be exciting, challenging and stressful but, most of all, rewarding.
- What is the most rewarding part of your role as a Police Officer and now as a Policing lecturer? As a police officer I always enjoyed the variety of the work. Whether it was a successful investigation into an offence where a victim was given justice, or playing a part in improving quality of life issues for communities during my time as a Neighbourhood Officer. You also make some great friends along the way! As a lecturer I really enjoy the idea of helping to develop the next generation of people who will be working in this particular frontline service.
- Did you always want to work for the Police? No – I initially studied Law after I left school but Policing seemed to be a logical progression. I joined in 1985 and at that time Police pay had been increased which meant the career was attractive to graduates like myself and also to a lot of ex-service personnel too.
- How did working and learning throughout the pandemic impact your students? I know a lot of them found it difficult missing out on in-person teaching and contact with their classmates. I think a lot of students liked the idea of the recorded lectures that can be used as a revision resource later on. We managed to keep in touch with online tutorials but I did quickly discover that not everyone has access to quiet areas to work, fast broadband and in some cases computers to work on.
- Did you utilise your experience by offering any community support during the pandemic? Yes – since I retired in 2015 I have been one of the Trustees who manage our local Memorial Hall. We hire the rooms out, maintain the building and contents, and any profit we make is given back to the community in the form of grants. Since the pandemic started we have been given some extra funds and have used this and our own money to support local people. For example, we have provided shopping for people suffering financial hardship and provided PPE for volunteers collecting and delivering prescriptions and other shopping. We will be continuing with this and hope to concentrate our actions to deal with issues like loneliness and isolation in the longer term.
- What advice would you give someone wanting to become a Police Officer? I would thoroughly recommend it as a career, both as an officer or member of support staff. The degree Bedfordshire offers is soon to become one of the main routes into the Police. You will have a varied, challenging and exciting career and there are lots of different roles within the force. If you think Policing might be for you, take a look at the course on the University’s website or contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Find out about studying Professional Policing, here.
Charlotte Cliffe – Adult Nursing student (Aylesbury campus)
- What does the NHS mean to you? The NHS means giving patients the best possible care to the best of my ability. Since becoming a student nurse, I appreciate the work of the NHS so much more. It is all about teamwork, providing healthcare to all those who need it, promoting health and promoting patient independence.
- What is the most rewarding part of your role as a student nurse? Aside from the learning which I really enjoy, the best part for me is being involved in patient care and spending time getting to know the patients. Hospitals can be daunting places, especially when you are ill, so I always try my best to reassure patients who are anxious. It makes me happy when I can be of comfort to them and get a smile! Working as a student nurse has taught me that the smallest things can make the biggest difference to people.
- Have you always wanted to be a nurse? No, I left school at 16 and got a job working in a bank as I didn’t really know what path I wanted to follow. I met my husband when I was 22 and had my first child at 26 and then went on to have two more children. I gave up work to become a full-time mum and it has only been in the last few years that I decided I wanted to pursue a career in nursing. I have no background in healthcare at all, other than helping with end-of-life care for two family members. I believe having my three children has made me the person I am today and has definitely played a big part in my decision to become a nurse.
- How did working and learning throughout the pandemic impact you and your role or career plans? It has been a strange year for us all. Fortunately, our hospital placements have not been impacted. I have been placed at four different hospital and community settings during my first year which are all quite different! I try my best to make the most of each placement and learn as much as I can. Most of our lectures have been online and it’s just not the same as being in the classroom and engaging with the lecturers and other students. We have however tried to make the best of the situation – we have a student WhatsApp group in which we are all active and offer each other support. We tell each other if we can get through this, we can get through anything!
- What advice would you give someone wanting to become a nurse or healthcare worker? Go for it! I worried at 36 I was too old to start a new career and go back to learning. Although it can be daunting at times, it is the best decision I have made, and I am proud to tell people I am a student nurse. Make the most of hospital placements, I was taught early on that ‘no question is a silly question!’ – I carry a notebook with me in my pocket on every placement and I always ask lots of questions! My top tip is to be organised – I have to plan my time effectively to stay on top of family life and studies/placement. However, it is really manageable if you want to succeed!
Find out about studying Adult Nursing at the Aylesbury campus, here.
Dr Alberto Poletti – active Social Worker & Senior Lecturer in Social Work
- What does the Social Care workforce mean to you? Throughout the pandemic we’ve seen how important the social care workforce can be for everyone – it is important not to forget that. It can make a huge difference in people’s lives.
- What is the most rewarding part of your role as a social work lecturer and a still practising social worker? In the last few years, I have met some of our graduates who are now frontline social workers in various Local Authorities or within the NHS. In those instances, it was very rewarding to see how some of them have become well-respected, confident and competent practitioners. Similarly, when I attend fostering panels, which I often chair, I find myself being frequently surprised by the level of dedication and commitment a lot of practitioners still have after many years on the front line. This is very positive.
- Have you always wanted to be a social worker? Although I always wanted to help people, I initially chose social work by chance. However, over the years I came to realise that I had made the right decision when I enrolled in social work training back in Milan. It’s not always easy to be a social worker, that’s undeniable, but it’s a profession that deeply changes you in a positive way.
- How did working and teaching throughout the pandemic impact you and your role as a lecturer? Certainly, it has not been easy to work and teach through the pandemic, although this can similarly be said for everyone else as well, I am sure! The relational aspects of the teaching and learning experience (which are particularly important especially within the social care and healthcare professions) have been challenging but there have been some positives as well, such as a higher level of flexibility.
- What advice would you give someone wanting to become a social worker? I would advise you to be curious! Professional curiosity is crucial in social work. Also be prepared to challenge your own values and assumptions about the world! Social Work is a journey – tough but rewarding.
Find out about studying Social Work, here.
Clive Sheridan – Student Recruitment Officer & volunteer Special Constable
- What does the role of frontline workers mean to you? It means so much to me. This was a dream role I wanted since I was younger and being able to support the police in my spare time is just amazing.
- What is the most rewarding part of your role as a voluntary Police Officer? The most rewarding part is being there to support regular colleagues and communities. Knowing that I can make a difference to someone by supporting them and being by their side in the community is what I joined for.
- Did you always want to work for or volunteer with the Police? Yes I did. I studied Criminology and Sociology at the University of Bedfordshire which prepared me for a job in policing. But since working for the University I found my Student Recruitment Officer role really rewarding, and it was suggested to me that by being a Special Constable I could get the best of both roles. So I decided to become a police volunteer and keep my current job.
- How did working and volunteering throughout the pandemic impact your role in the Student Recruitment team, or your future plans? Throughout the third lockdown it was a busy period, where I dedicated almost every weekend to the police. It did not affect my role as a Student Recruitment Officer as I worked around my commitments but it was a busy period with lots going on and many things to get involved in.
- What advice would you give someone wanting to become a voluntary Special Constable? It is a rewarding way to get involved in the community. It is completely flexible around existing commitments and you only need to dedicate 16 hours per month, so there is not much to it once you pass training.
Find out about studying Professional Policing, here.
Find out about studying Criminology & Sociology, here.
Munei Tarbox – Social Work student
- What does Social Care mean to you? To me, Social Care means a service that intervenes in supporting people to live their lives comfortably. It is there to promote independence and advocates for people, and acknowledges them as experts in their own life unless proved otherwise.
- What is the most rewarding part of your role as a student social care worker? There are several ways I have found my role as a student social worker to be rewarding – one of them simply being that I have had the opportunity to make a difference whilst being a student! Being a student social worker, you get the opportunity to put theory to practice and gain experience that prepares you for your future profession. I also realised for you to see the rewards you must be a self-motivated person, willing to research, ask as many questions as possible, ask for opportunities to be a part of meetings and offer to help – you will see the rewards when you start to gain confidence in your practice.
- Have you always wanted to be a social worker? I grew up knowing I wanted to be in a field that deals with the public – helping, supporting and advocating has always been a passionate of mine. So, when I decided I wanted to go to university, and I was looking at my choices and social work seemed like the most obvious choice – and I am glad I followed that path.
- How did working and learning throughout the pandemic impact you and your role/career plans – did you do any community work during the pandemic? Working and learning during the pandemic has been challenging but I realised to be an effective social worker you need to be able to adapt to any situation. A lot of the work I was doing on placement was done over the telephone, virtual meetings or through email which puts a barrier in your practice and has risk of missing important social cues that you would normally pick up during face-to-face meetings. I decided to look on the positives that have come out of learning and working during the pandemic – not see it as a barrier but as a challenge to work harder in delivering the same first-class service that you would when there is no pandemic or restrictions. The learning opportunities I can take away from this experience is that situations do not always go to plan, therefore it is crucial that you are able to think on your feet and always have a contingency plan which I believe is a good skill for a social worker to possess. I realise in social work practice the communication is varied from face to face, telephone, zoom or written communication and I feel like the pandemic has helped me work on several means of communication.
- What advice would you give someone wanting to become a social worker? Do not go in with a hero complex trying to save everyone’s problems – that is setting yourself up for failure. Go in with an open mind, taking a holistic approach in your practice, take each case as an individual case and celebrate each win.
Find out about studying Social Work, here.
The University of Bedfordshire’s Court is also full of healthcare and social care expertise, representing the local community and NHS Trusts. Many Court members and their organisations have played an important role during the height of Covid-19 – something which they hope will help to inspire students in their future careers.
Chantal Fowler-Lockey, Founder and CEO of The Foundation for Infant Loss Training and Honorary Doctor of Science 2019, said: “During the pandemic we have continued our online training with counselling organisations and charities in pregnancy, infant loss and assisting with subsequent pregnancies after loss. We have also been working with employers in how best to support employees who suffer a loss and we have supported individual families who have very sadly lost a baby. Due to Covid-19 some mothers have had to deliver their stillborn or go through miscarriage alone or with just one person and – in some cases – some families did not get the luxury of time with their baby. The support needed at this current time is vast, especially as some support services have been stopped or limited due to the pandemic.”
Dr Peter Carter OBE, Honorary Doctor of Science 2018, said: “I've been busy during lockdown doing a wide range of things, including assisting a number of Hospital Trusts over issues such as investigating complex complaints and Governance issues. I also wanted to make a practical contribution, so I completed the accreditation modules to be able to administer vaccines at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital. It was great to able to do something that will hopefully have helped people avoid the virus. It was also great fun to be part of the team – the camaraderie has been amazing!”
Emma Freda, Communications and Public Engagement Officer for Healthwatch Bedford Borough, said: “During the past year we have worked tirelessly to support the NHS and local authority partners. We have continued to work closely with Bedford’s diverse communities, seeking their views of health and care services, and used social media channels and local influence to promote vital messaging about Covid-19, the vaccination process and service delivery. We support some of the most seldom heard and marginalised communities in the Borough to ensure they are given a powerful voice in the areas of NHS commissioning and service delivery.”
Liz Searle, CEO of Keech Hospice, said: “We have worked shoulder to shoulder with our NHS colleagues, playing a frontline role during the pandemic by caring for Covid patients and their families, alongside our usual children and adults.
“Keech Hospice continues to care for the large number of patients whose diagnosis and treatment was sadly postponed or delayed during the pandemic and who now need hospice care, and those who have lost their strength and confidence.”
The University of Bedfordshire offers a variety of practical health and social care courses, boasting strong placement partnerships with regional NHS Trusts, excellent facilities and brand new simulation suites. For further information about courses with the Schools of Applied Social Sciences, Nursing and Health Education and Society, Community and Health, visit the Faculty of Health & Social Sciences: www.beds.ac.uk/howtoapply/departments/healthsciences
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