About the Author: Rachel Smyth

10 May 2021

On International Nurses Day 2021, The Coalition for Personalised Care is taking a moment to reflect on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on personalised care within the nursing profession.

No one can doubt that the NHS and our nurses have gone above and beyond to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. The battle still rages and although a third wave may be possible later in the year, our vaccination numbers are high. By the beginning of May nearly 35 million vaccinations had been given in the UK.

The number of nurses is on the rise too. According to government statistics released in December 2020, ‘The number of nurses in the NHS in England increased by 13,313 on last year to a record 299,184’. There has also reportedly been an increase of 26% of acceptances to nursing and midwifery courses in England.

The stories below reflect on the importance of the role played by nurses, and how even in difficult times, personalised care is at the forefront of the minds of professionals and their patients.

A nursing student’s story

What has your experience of nursing been during the covid-19 pandemic?

As a third year student nurse training through the Covid-19 pandemic it has been an emotional but rewarding time. Placements have been few and far between and the learning has been very different to what we were used to before the pandemic. The hardest part of it all for me has been the death. As a nurse we strive to save people and unfortunately there was a point in the second wave, not long after Christmas, where it felt like we were literally going to work to watch people die. The sound of zips closing literally sends shivers down my spine.

It was hard to watch the world carry on as if nothing was happening; people denying covid and the people who didn’t care if they got it or not. It’s been an absolute honour to train during this time and be there for our patients but it has taken a toll on the staff’s mental wellbeing. This past month our Covid Intensive Care Unit has closed for deep cleaning and I’ve never felt emotion like it. I’m so sad for all the lives we’ve lost but pleased that we seem to have overcome the worst.”

What challenges have you faced providing personalised care to your patients during the pandemic?

In terms of personalised care, there’s been many challenges particularly with patients who may not be able to give full history or their usual baseline who would normally be accompanied by family members. Phones have rung off the hook with families understandably asking after loved ones and we’ve used iPads so that patients can keep in touch with families. Staffing shortages have sometimes made it difficult to spend as much time as you’d like with a patient and it’s been far from ideal, but I think in the situation we’ve been struck with, we’ve done the best we can to provide the best patient centred care we possibly can.

Have you seen or experienced a change in your passion for nursing during these challenging times?

I’ve been passionate about being a nurse since I was a little girl and there’s no way even a pandemic would have prevented me from carrying on. Over the past year I can definitely say I’ve lacked motivation to continue when times have been hard and I’ve felt deflated with comments made by our government, but I’ve pushed on regardless because, for me, there’s no other career path I would choose.

A Story of Lived Experience

The pandemic has meant that the role of nurses has changed and the way that they facilitate personalised care has had to adapt. One patient describes her experience and how a Practice Nurse facilitated a solution which made her feel safe and listened to.

“In normal circumstances I visit my GP every three months for injections. Due to my shielding status I asked the Practice Nurse if she could consider me doing injections myself at home. I give myself other injections so felt confident in doing this. She discussed this within the practice and I was able to do to my four injections last year at home

‘This made a huge difference to me. Not only was I able to continue with my normal course of treatment I was able to minimise my risk and exposure during the pandemic.”

There are many resources available online sharing the experiences of Nurses in the UK and beyond. You can find out more about the personalised care and nursing through the RCN Nursing Matters Podcast.