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Nursing students win adult learner award for coronavirus support

Nursing student Ewa Smaglinska reading a book in a library

Students on The Open University in Wales’ BSc Honours Nursing degree programme are celebrating today after winning the Skills at Work award at the Inspire! Adult Learning Awards 2021.

Over the past 18 months, year 2 and 3 students from the programme supported Wales’ health service during the coronavirus pandemic in the middle of their studies.

Organised by Learning and Work Institute Cymru, the awards were set up to recognise the achievements of learners, projects and organisations in Wales who have contributed to adult learning.

'Our nursing students are a credit to their profession and our university,' said  Majella Kavanagh, Staff Tutor for nursing at the OU in Wales. 'They managed to continue with their academic studies whilst supporting our health service during one of the most challenging periods in its history. None of them were forced to do this – apart from those required to shield for health reasons, all our students told us they wanted to take part. Thanks to the incredible support of their tutors, OU student support and their employers they also managed to continue with their studies where they could.'

The OU in Wales nursing degree scheme, currently supported by the Welsh Government, allows healthcare assistants to study flexibly for a nursing degree while continuing to work in their local hospital or care home. Students come from all of Wales’ health boards, as well as some independent providers.

'During the past year, nurses have been central in the battle against this terrible virus,' added Louise Casella, Director of the OU in Wales. 'To see our nursing students manage an increased workload, adapt to a rapidly changing environment and yet successfully continue with their studies makes me incredibly proud. Not only have they helped patients in their time of need, but they’ve also applied the things they’ve learnt with us to the front line, developing skills that will be useful throughout their careers as nurses. Well done – the award is thoroughly deserved!'

This was a time when the science around coronavirus was changing constantly, medical practice was evolving constantly, the number of patients was rising rapidly, staff were themselves in and out of work as a result of having coronavirus, and all this on top of living with the restrictions that were necessary to attempt to curb the spread of the virus.

As students we viewed being able to participate in the national response to the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity not only to be involved in what was, and continues to be, a historical global ‘moment’, but more importantly as an opportunity to develop our nursing skills in a way we would perhaps never experience again.

We showed an instant desire to help and to be part of the professional teams across Wales, caring for people who were extremely unwell, and all during a time when we were all still learning the most effective ways to care for and treat those who were ill with coronavirus.

Ewa Smaglinska, Nursing Student, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board

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