These are tough times and they will end

 Scott Doughty 15 May 2020

I’ve been shielding for eight weeks now. As an ex-HCA and a second-year nursing student with severe allergic brittle asthma it’s very frustrating not being able to go out or help with this crisis but I know I have no choice about that.

RCN Students Committee Northern region member Scott Doughty

My wife is a nurse so I can’t completely shield, but she has been redeployed to a non-COVID ward to protect me. 

I was pretty upset at first and then I gradually came to terms with it. Part of the process is accepting that this is how it is. I’ve accepted staying in as my new normal for now. You’ve just got to do everything you can to stay safe. It’s put a lot of things in my life into perspective. The big one for me is health and fitness. Every day now I’m doing a bit of fitness activity when before I might not have done quite so much. 

These are tough times and they will end. We need to be prepared for when they do end. This is going to be a long haul and when the pandemic dies down I’ll be back to look after patients again. 

The whole opting in or out business has been a huge issue for students to deal with. It is very much an individual decision; no one should feel pressurised to opt in. If you’ve opted out you are still very much doing your bit by continuing your course. 

As a member of the national RCN Students Committee and a student myself my advice to nursing students is to really examine the guidance from Health Education England and speak to your university. Universities actually deserve a lot of credit. Their advice changed sometimes hourly in the beginning and they are doing all they can. I take my hat off to them because they have been under some serious pressure from students and I’ll admit I was one of them, asking so many questions: what to do about competencies, exams, sign-off, placements… We may have been given information in dribs and drabs, but that information has changed so frequently and rapidly that universities should be commended for the work they have done to make things clear for us. 

Obviously this isn’t what any of us signed up or paid our fees for but the universities are dealing with this situation and developing our programmes as best they can. My university has done a fantastic job and I don’t envy them.

A key aim that we need to try to collectively achieve is scrapping our student debt. The RCN has written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care asking for the government to recognise the huge contribution students are making at this time by reimbursing tuition fees. Freeing students of crushing debt would be a strong message of gratitude and a very concrete way that students could experience the appreciation the country feels for them. We are calling for the government to forgive student debt and abolish student-funded tuition fees for all nursing, midwifery, and allied health care students starting in 2020/21 and beyond. We have also asked the government to introduce universal living maintenance grants that reflect actual student need. 

As a fellow student who is going through stressful times myself, my advice to all students would be to take a step back and breathe. Look at the information to hand instead of trying to think three steps ahead and worrying about it all. Try to keep safe. Keep talking to your support networks. Regardless of what you’ve decided to do you are all amazing so take heart in that. 

Further resources for RCN students

Scott Doughty, RCN Student Committee member for the Northern region 2020

Scott Doughty

RCN Student Committee member

Student and the University of Sunderland

Scott is an adult nursing student at The University of Sunderland. He worked as an HCA for a number of years before finally deciding to make the jump to nurse by doing an access course and becoming a student nurse. 

Page last updated - 24/08/2020