2020 Inspired More People To Become NHS Heroes
This year has been uniquely challenging for those working on the frontline of the NHS, with medical and healthcare workers having faced the most serious public health crisis in living memory.
While many of us have struggled with the day-to-day realities and restrictions of living in a pandemic, there are those who have faced the disease head on, continuing to work through grief and fear and personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages.
That those who work in the NHS are heroes has always been apparent. But the coronavirus pandemic has further highlighted the qualities that make up such heroes; the resilience, compassion and drive that pushes these special individuals through each gruelling shift, each heartbreaking diagnosis.
Many of us have taken to our doorsteps to clap this year, or displayed painted rainbows in our windows as a way of demonstrating our gratitude.
In many ways, our NHS has proven to be a uniquely unifying force in a society that is all too often divided; a point of pride and hope in an otherwise dark and deeply upsetting time.
And there are those who’ve taken the values of the NHS to their hearts this year, inspired to change their career paths completely and join the NHS workforce themselves.
As per Professor Mark Radford, chief nurse at Health Education England, ‘a quite phenomenal number of applications onto registered nursing programmes’, with the professionalism shown by NHS workers during the pandemic having sparked greater respect and interest.
Data published this month by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) found that there had been a ‘record’ number of nursing students placed onto UK-based courses in 2020, with significant increases noted in the number of male and mature nursing students.
This end of year data revealed that a total of 37,635 nursing students had been accepted onto UK courses in 2020, showing an increase from 30,395 (23.8%) in 2019.
It was found that the number of mature students being accepted onto nursing courses had escalated, with a 40.1% hike in the number of students aged 35 and above, rising to 8,100 from just 5,780 in 2019.
Additionally, the number of students aged between 25 and 29 increased by 24.7%, with those aged 30 to 34 having risen by 29%.
I spoke with Louise, 29, from Bury, who has recently been accepted to study midwifery, having realised during lockdown that ‘life really is too short’.
Louise has wanted to work in a caring profession from a young age, but had never been quite sure which role would be a good fit. However, like so many of us, ‘life got busy’ and Louise ended up working in the field of property.
After becoming pregnant with her first child in 2016, Louise encountered some inspiring midwives and found the entire process to be ‘truly fascinating’:
Since then I haven’t stopped thinking about a career in midwifery. Another baby in 2019, and I wanted it even more!
Although she always knew she would one day pursue her ambitions, the events of 2020 gave Louise the push she needed to move forward, making her realise that ‘if there’s something you’re not happy with in your life then change it’. For Louise, this was her career, and she knew it was time to take action.
Louise told UNILAD:
Throughout the lockdown, once the little ones were asleep, I’d go for long walks and daydream about one day becoming a midwife.
I wanted to help lots of other women and families, and join them in their journey to parenthood.
I have always appreciated everyone working within the NHS, and I believe every single person working on the frontline is an inspiration to everyone.
However, the pandemic has highlighted how truly inspirational all healthcare workers are and I can’t wait to be a part of it.
Louise is currently enrolled on an access course through a local college, and will begin studying for her midwifery degree in September 2021. She looks forward to supporting women ‘through one of the most enjoyable yet most vulnerable times of their lives’.
Of course, there are many other roles in hospitals beyond the well-known fields of nursing and midwifery, with many workers providing essential services aside from medical assistance and healthcare.
UNILAD spoke with Marzena, who ‘was in a really bad place’ just a few years ago. Homeless, and with no clue whatsoever as to how to get back on her feet, Marzena found a lifeline through Beam, an organisation that helped her raise the £4,275 required to train as a beautician.
Marzena began working in a beauty salon back in March, and finally began to feel as if she was getting on the right track. However, once lockdown hit, Marzena sadly ended up losing her much-longed-for job, a setback that made her feel as if she was ‘back to square one’.
Fortunately, Beam was able to lend Marzena a hand once again, helping her obtain a position as a catering assistant on a coronavirus ward.
Marzena told UNILAD how the pandemic has ‘really put things into perspective for me on a personal level’:
I wanted to wake up in the mornings knowing I was doing what I could to help others. My training as a beautician was all about making people feel special, and that’s what I try to do every day at work.
When she first started the role, Marzena wasn’t certain that she wanted to pursue it as a career path in the long term. However, the rewards of the role have since changed her mind:
I have loved putting a smile on people’s faces during this difficult time, and that means more to me than anything else. Because of that, I’m now looking forward to continuing my career in the NHS for the long-term!
I’ve always admired those working in the NHS, but working on the frontline in a pandemic is such a huge challenge and unlike anything that we have experienced before.
It was so wonderful to see the public’s appreciation for key workers this year. On a personal level, I’ve always appreciated the selflessness of NHS staff – those that are willing to sacrifice their own health, both physical and mental – to help those in need.
One thing that I don’t think enough people appreciate is the time spent away from loved ones to protect them this year, which is a huge personal sacrifice to make.
There have indeed been moments that have left Marzena feeling frightened and at risk, particularly at the height of the pandemic, and she has found it difficult during times when she was unable to see her family and friends.
However, the sense of community spirit Marzena has found within within the NHS this year has been ‘amazing’, and she feels confident that key workers could indeed weather another pandemic ‘with positivity and kindness’.
Ruth May, England’s chief nursing officer, told UNILAD that the heightened public interest in pursuing NHS careers was ‘heartening’ to see:
After one of the most challenging years in NHS history, it’s heartening to hear that so many people are changing careers and deciding to make caring for others and saving lives their ambition.
The impact of watching doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers respond to the global pandemic has clearly been inspirational to many and I look forward to welcoming these people into the NHS.
Offering advice to those looking to join the ‘NHS family’, Otolaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery (ENT) registrar Dr Maya Shahsavari said:
Our beloved NHS is a one of a kind opportunity to unite for the good of our loved ones, to be rewarded daily for taking care of the most vulnerable in their darkest hour, to extend a helping hand to those rejected by most and to heal physical, mental and emotional wounds. It takes sacrifice…a lot of sacrifice… daily.
Dr Shahsavari continued:
It is hard work and the demand is forever increasing whilst the supply is dependent on the generous nature of those who choose to join this unrivalled healthcare system.
The challenges will leave you tired yet invigorated, proud yet humbled and you will be forever in awe of your colleagues and your own strength. They say ‘you’ll never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have’ and this is what it means to be part of the NHS family.
Together we overcome the darkest of days, we laugh, we cry, we persevere and we celebrate. If your heart lights up at the prospect of helping others, promoting health, kindness and unity then this family is yours to join.
If you are looking for a profound meaning in life, there’s nothing quite as magnificent as true service to others and no better way of expressing it than becoming part of something greater than you can imagine.
We will not forget this year, or those who made such immense personal sacrifices for the public good, putting themselves at risk to keep the NHS going.
That there are those who’ve been inspired to make their own personal contribution is one silver lining in the heartache we’ve all endured this year. There are good people. There are people who are driven to help others and make terrible situations that little bit more bearable.
UNILAD wishes all those looking to commit themselves to a role in the NHS all the best of luck as we look to the year ahead.
It’s okay to not panic about everything going on in the world right now. LADbible and UNILAD’s aim with our campaign, Cutting Through, is to provide our community with facts and stories from the people who are either qualified to comment or have experienced first-hand the situation we’re facing. For more information from the World Health Organization, click here.
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