As 2020 draws to a close, we are acknowledging and celebrating the dedication of our graduates working in the NHS. We asked five BU alumni to reflect on the past year, and to tell us their hopes for the year ahead. The interviews also form part of BU’s celebration of the International Year of the Nurse/Midwife, designated by the World Health Organisation to mark the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

Nicola Gill

Nicola graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology in 2017 and now works as an Assistant Psychologist at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

How did your job role change as a result of the pandemic?

During the pandemic I was redeployed to assist on the elderly wards as a Support Worker, as a result of increased staff sickness. I also assisted my own wards when there was more demand. Our role increased in responsibility, not only supporting patients and relatives but also other staff members.

What were the biggest challenges of the past year – professionally or personally?

It has been difficult to fully develop in my role as an Assistant Psychologist as the majority of the therapeutic groups I would run had to be stopped due to the pandemic. In addition, face-to-face contact had to be reduced at times to help hospitals practice social distancing, which made some therapeutic 1:1 sessions more difficult. It was also difficult to stay connected while a lot of the psychology team started to work from home more. Personally, it was difficult to contain my own anxiety about Covid-19 and the risk I posed to my family by constantly going into work as an essential worker.

What, if any, were the high points or moments of celebration?

My colleague and I ran a night-time space group for the first time in the hospital, to make sure the night staff, as well as all other members of the team, had a space to address how they felt and to share concerns. We continued these night space groups monthly. In addition, another colleague and I organised and implemented all the practical procedures and facilities needed to turn our inpatient ward into a safe area for positive Covid patients.

How have the challenges of this year compared with the rest of your career to date?

This year has been more challenging due to the nature of the pandemic and the added stress that brings. It has been difficult to contain the combined stress of working on a fast-paced, unpredictable adult acute mental health ward and the increased pressures due to the pandemic on top of that.

As 2020 draws to a close, what has this year taught you and what are your hopes for the coming year?

This year has taught me how resilient and adaptable my colleagues and the Daisy Ward team at Prospect Park Hospital can be. This year taught me, more than anything, how we come together to act as a family to keep ourselves and our patients safe. In addition, I learned how adaptable I can be and how I can adapt my skills to work effectively online and still be organised and resilient under pressure for a long time.