THE hard work of student nurses who stepped up to work on the frontline at Russells Hall Hospital during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic has been celebrated.

Student nurses were asked to move into clinical practice earlier than normal to help the NHS cope at the outbreak of the virus, with around 150 second and third year students answering the call to join the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust to work at Russells Hall Hospital.

Students came from universities across the country including London, Nottingham, Sheffield, Birmingham, Keele and Coventry, as well as with the Trust’s partner universities in Wolverhampton and Worcester.

Now, more than 50 of the third year students due to qualify later this summer have opted to remain in permanent posts at the hospital, with more set to follow later in the year.

Mary Sexton, chief nurse at the Trust, said: “We were delighted to welcome the student nurses and they went straight to work in every ward and department, including with our most poorly COVID-19 patients.

“This wasn’t something they had to do and we’ve been so impressed by their courage and dedication.

“The second year students will stay with us to complete the hours they need to do as part of their degree, and return to studying next year. We will be keeping in touch with them and hope to welcome them back when they qualify.”

Speaking about her experience of working on an all-Covid ward, University of Worcester student Hannah Gray said: “If you had told me at Christmas that I would be working on a ward I wouldn’t have believed you – I was planning on community nursing or in a care home.

"I was really nervous but within the first two weeks I thought ‘I really love this place’. There’s a really good vibe and they are so supportive of students while pushing you to get better.

“My ward went from being a normal ward to completely COVID and I was anxious to start with but the nurses were so supportive that after just an hour I felt quite calm. Being in the Trust calmed my nerves.”

Fellow Worcester student Val Deeley, who works the trauma and orthopaedic ward, said: "Coming here was a really, really easy decision. They’ve been absolutely fantastic, not just on the ward but the professional development team. Dudley have been looking after us all.”

Both students are set to continue their nursing careers at the Trust.

Diane Wake, chief executive of the Trust, said: “We are delighted to be welcoming these new nurses to Dudley and to helping them build meaningful and fulfilling careers with us, providing the best possible care to our community.”