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Graduating as a Nurse during a pandemic- A conversation with Nurse Courtney Wood.

Updated: Apr 20, 2021

2020 has been a hard year and the first months of 2021 have been equally tough for many. With the pandemic putting us all into a third lockdown, Covid news often feels difficult to escape from. While we too feel the struggle here at Hollr as we continue to put plans on hold, we couldn’t help but think of our amazing NHS and all they are facing right now. Behind the scenes, they're fighting daily to keep us all safe, well and alive.

With this in mind, we came up with our #HollrNHSstories series. A series of interviews that will explore the world of the NHS and celebrate some of the brilliant people helping in the fight against the virus.

To kick our series off, we start today with Courtney Wood. A young nurse who immediately after graduating, has started her nursing career in the face of Covid-19. Courtney was kind enough to take some time out to do our interview and we want to thank her again for being a part of the #HollrNHSstories series.

We spoke with Courtney about all things related to her role. As well as how she has found working in the pandemic, and advice she has for us when it comes to living in the age of Covid-19…

To begin with, tell us a bit about your role within the NHS and your journey into this role.

I started my journey at the University of Cumbria in March 2017 enrolling myself onto the Adult Nursing degree. We were a very small cohort - only twenty of us. This meant that we were all very close and I think this really enhanced my experience of university and the specific course. Finding a balance between full-time placements and assignments was sometimes a challenge, but I believe I have gained many skills from this. I completed all of my hospital placements at West Cumberland Hospital, which I think really helped me gain confidence being familiar with many of the staff and the hospital in general. I officially qualified in March 2020. I actually got my nursing PIN the week we went into the first lockdown. Luckily, I got a job where I wanted to be.

You get a rotation of different placements as a student nurse, which allows you the experience of different nursing specialisms - medical, surgical, critical care, etc. At the time, I found this quite daunting as it could sometimes be overwhelming going somewhere new, but it’s helped me so much in my professional development and awareness of other health professionals. I completed my fourth placement on the Coronary Care Unit, and up until this point, I never really knew what kind of nursing I wanted to do. After this placement, I joined the ‘bank’ working as a healthcare assistant. This meant that I wasn’t tied to specific hours, I could pick my hours, and I could pick where I took shifts. This allowed me to gain a lot more experience and to make some money on the side. Over two and a half years since my placement on CCU as a student, and I’m still there now as a qualified nurse.

How have you found working in the pandemic so far, what has it been like day to day?

Every day is completely different. You can only take it as it comes but you have to try and keep ten steps ahead, always. We’re seeing services that were already strained, being stretched even further. We’re seeing a lot of poorly people and people that were perhaps chronically poorly, even poorlier. It’s required a lot of professional development and adaptation. There’s definitely been a lot of pressure on us all, but teamwork has made it bearable and you manage to get through it.

What helps you stay positive during this time & outside of work?

At work, after the initial pressure I’ve come to accept that nobody could have been prepared for what we’re experiencing. As a newly qualified or someone having been qualified for years, everyone is in the same boat. Being a newly qualified nurse is daunting enough, but I’ve tried to not get myself down as I’ve realised how we’re all learning together and we’re there to support one another. Another way I’ve kept positive at work has been through simply reflecting and reminding myself why I started this - despite the rough shifts and hard days, if you can say that you’ve tried your hardest for your patients and colleagues, then you manage to keep your chin up.

Outside of work, I have a great support network of family and friends. In my spare time, I’ve tried my hardest to make time to look after myself and do what I enjoy. This has definitely been hard with the current situation, but I’ve found the greatest comfort in reading books. This is something I’ve always loved but having the time to dedicate to reading has really helped me.

What is the most rewarding aspect about working for the NHS?

The most rewarding aspect for me personally is being able to impact someone’s experience of what they’re going through. Nobody wants to be in hospital unwell, or have their relatives admitted. Whether it be the patient or their family members, your effort and manner is completely detrimental to their experience. If you can listen to someone, be patient with them, and advocate for them, you can make their situation bearable. Being able to do this for someone is the greatest reward.

Is there anything you’d like to remind our readers of when it comes to living life in the middle of a pandemic?

The situation we’re all living in at the moment is very real and impacts us all greatly in different ways. The only way we can get through this is by working together and being considerate of how our actions make a difference, whether that be positive or negative. Do what you can to protect yourself, your loved ones, and take care. Some days will be harder than others, but this can’t last forever.

If you know someone in your life who is an NHS worker, make sure to reach out. Thank them for protecting and caring for us all. In times where we all feel isolated and separated due to the virus, it is important to reach out. Make connections wherever we can and practice gratitude.

If you think you know someone suited to the #HollrNHSstories you can contact us via social media or email to nominate them to be a part of the series.

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