What’s it like being a Trainee Nursing Associate during a pandemic?

What’s it like being a Trainee Nursing Associate during a pandemic?

In this unprecedented time of need, hundreds of trainee nurses are stepping in to help support the NHS and other key healthcare workers during this pandemic. Jorgyella tells us about her nursing journey and how she is managing her new role at the trust under these challenging circumstances.

Why did you want to become a Trainee Nursing Associate (TNA)?
I joined the TNA apprenticeship scheme in September 2018. When I heard about the role, I thought that it sounded like a great opportunity and gateway into nursing, a career I’ve always wanted to pursue!  Caring for people when they’re sometimes at their most vulnerable, is challenging, but more fulfilling than anything else I can think of. My friends and family often ask me whether they think I’ll ever have a change of career, but I couldn’t dream of doing anything else!

What does your role entail and where are you based?
I work for one of the four community nursing teams in Norwich, our team is called City 1. When I first applied for the apprenticeship, I didn’t realise that community nursing even existed, or what it involved. Having been on a few placements in the acute setting, I feel very lucky to have been assigned to City 1 for my main place of work, as through the past eighteen months, I have come to realise that this is the area and direction I want my career to take. My role involves administering insulin daily to our diabetic patients, wound management, catheter care, administering anticoagulant medication and a few other things! However, I would say that wound care makes up the largest proportion of what I do. Post-surgical wounds, pressure ulcers, moisture lesions, general skin tears, but mostly, venous and arterial leg ulcers. Leg ulcer treatment involves extensive wound care, and knowledge of different dressings and their purpose, as well as bandaging and educating the patient so that they can be in control of their own care and treatment.

Is it strange having to wear PPE? (How long did it take you to get used to wearing it?)
Wearing PPE was a little strange at first, however it is something that I have quickly got used to. Although, regular changes in government guidelines, means that the type of PPE we wear, and when to do so, is frequently changing. For example, when to apply PPE, whether to wear a face shield as well as the mask and also which patients we have to wear this for. However, our manager keeps us well informed and up to date, regularly letting us know whether there has been any significant changes and we also have our COVID intranet page with lots of information on should we need it. I have found that wearing a mask makes communicating with our patients slightly more difficult, as many of them have hearing impairment to some degree, and rely on lip reading, and are unable to do this when we have our masks on.

What have you been doing during the pandemic?
During the pandemic I’ve been working a little more than usual, picking up extra shifts with the bank team where I can, as I knew that many of our teams maybe struggling with staffing issues more than usual.  When I’m not at work though I’m usually looking after my little brother, Fynn. He’s four and has lots of energy, so I’m lucky to live where I do, just outside of Holt, as there is lots of fields, tracks and streams nearby to my house, where I can take him and our dog, Truffle, to fly his kite and play poohsticks! Also, every Thursday evening, after the weekly clap at 8 o’clock, myself, my older brother Lyam, Mum and stepdad, partake in “Jay’s Virtual Pub Quiz”, and we also have a family group chat with my aunties, uncles, cousins and grandparents so that we can compare our scores! I look forward to it every week. My stepdad has also created a ping pong table from some scrap wood, a great addition to our family home, and so we have all now become fairly good at table tennis too!

Anything different or any positive experiences you can share?
Although the current situation is very scary and somewhat daunting, I have been humbled by the acts of kindness I have been seeing throughout the country. Not just towards the NHS, to which there have been many, donations of hand creams, coffee machines, discounts, food deliveries etc etc. But also in other ways; people offering to do shopping, gardening, delivering of prescription medications, and so much more in order to protect the vulnerable people of our society, and those who simply are unable to do it all themselves. The country is coming together more than ever, and it’s really lovely to see. My mum and I are also part of the ‘Norfolk Scrub Team’, which involves dropping off scrub material to the amazing sewing volunteers across Norfolk, and then delivering the handmade scrubs to nurses and doctors in other areas. When I’m not at work I try and help by collecting the material needed from the local ‘Scrub Hub’!

Do you feel supported?
I do, yes. However, the Trainee Nursing Associate apprenticeship is a new role, and I am a member of the first cohort in Norfolk to do it. With a new role, comes many challenges, the NMC and the UEA are frequently changing the requirements and demands that need to be met in order to qualify as a Nursing Associate. The pandemic has added a great deal of stress to this, as it is now becoming difficult to meet the requirements set. However, everybody is in this together, and I have a great Clinical Education Team (CET) on hand if I need support with anything. My line manager is also very supportive and my colleagues are always at the end of the phone should I need them. As well as this, a few groups have been formed on social media, so I have frequent contact and support from other TNAs, nurses, health care assistants and healthcare workers, which is comforting at a time like this.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?
There have been a few challenges I have faced during my role as a TNA! Firstly, I live in Holt, and so before I became a TNA I rarely drove to Norwich. The prospect of having to drive in unknown territory around the city daily during rush hour traffic was daunting for me, but I quickly adapted! Also, unlike many of my TNA colleagues, I had no previous experience in healthcare, apart from the odd work experience day here and there! I received my A-level results in the August, and became a TNA in the September, so being allocated to the community where I realised I would be lone working was nerving for me. My colleagues on the wards have a team of HCAs , nurses and doctors around them should they have a problem or query. Although there is always someone at the end of the phone should I need them, lone working has allowed to me to enhance my organisational skills, having to plan patient care for myself, the dressings they’ll need, whether they need to be referred to another service , such as the occupational nursing team etc, which in turn has allowed me to learn very quickly! Additionally, as part of the TNA course, we are expected to attend university once a week. However, we are unable to do this at the minute, and we are receiving our education via video calls from our lecturers, this has probably been one of the greatest challenges, to me, during this lockdown period.

What are your future plans?
The TNA course will give be a foundation degree once I qualify, as well as becoming the Band 4 Nursing Associate and being on the register. However, I would like to go on further to complete the two year top up course,  and become a band five registered nurse. As for the area, I definitely want to stay within the community! Being able to be somewhat in charge of which patients I see and when is very fulfilling, and there is so many opportunities that come with this. Further along in my career I was thinking about becoming a Tissue Viability Nurse, however I have a little way to go until I reach this point!

Click here to find out more about NCH&C’s apprenticeships.