Images of Emily Solloway, Joshua Stevens and Edie Bisseker.
Photo from left to right: Emily Solloway, Joshua Stevens, Edie Bisseker

Students from UWE Bristol have been utilising their skills and degree knowledge to support the NHS and help with efforts to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

From final-year nursing students working on the frontline to fashion students making much-needed hospital personal protective equipment (PPE), many have found ways to put their skills to good use during this unprecedented time, often while juggling their own degree studies and assessments.

Here, we share the stories of three students going above and beyond to help their local communities:

Emily Solloway

Emily is a third-year nursing student who is currently working at Bristol Royal Infirmary. She is one of over 10,000 nursing and midwifery students from across the country who have opted to begin their careers early and join NHS staff in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Speaking of why she decided to help, Emily said: ‘‘I wanted to feel like I was doing something to help with the pressures we have found ourselves under. I felt ready to use the skills I have been learning over the last three years to use and felt that by opting in I would achieve this.’’

Working on the trauma ward, Emily’s ‘normal day’ usually involves caring for patients with broken bones and those who have suffered a traumatic injury. However, she says Covid-19 has made her job more challenging: ‘‘My job has become harder as we have to take precautions against Covid-19. We have closed bays all over the hospital with coronavirus patients in and we must wear PPE all day to protect ourselves. This is uncomfortable and a different environment to what we’re used to working in.’’

Despite these challenges, Emily says she is finding ways to cope and is happy to be part of the NHS effort: ‘‘I take each day as it comes and use my network of family and friends for advice and support. I love my job and I am glad to be working even during this difficult time. My friends and family are all really proud of me and are so supportive of the job that I do.’’

Joshua Stevens

With a background in microbiology and experience using laboratory equipment, PhD student Josh decided to join a small team of scientists at UWE Bristol in producing disinfectant which is in short supply across the UK.  To date, the team have produced just over 3,000 litres of disinfectant which has been distributed to South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, local GP surgeries and police stations across the West Country free of charge.

Speaking of his decision to help with the project, Josh said: ‘‘I wanted to help utilise the expertise and facilities we have at the university to aid the frontline staff who are doing an amazing job under these challenging circumstances. At the beginning of this project, I knew I had to choose between remaining in my rented property in Bristol or travelling to Cornwall to be with my family before the lockdown. If it meant I was available to help with the COVID-19 efforts, staying in Bristol was an easy choice.’’

Josh is currently studying towards a PHD in Philosophy and said: ‘‘Being involved in this project brings to light how scientific research can have a real impact on people’s lives. The positive responses we have had from those who have received disinfectant really demonstrates how we can all pull together during these challenging and uncertain times.’’

Edie Bisseker

Edie is studying towards a degree in Fashion Textiles and is currently on her placement year. At the beginning of the lockdown, she started looking online for ways that she could help and joined a local Facebook Group called For the Love of Scrubs.

Edie said: ‘I wanted to do something to lift some of the burden on our underfunded, undervalued NHS. It’s shocking how badly the government has handled this crisis and how unprepared we were, given the warning period.’’

Since then Edie has been using her sewing and knitting skills to produce cotton laundry bags and ear protectors for NHS staff which are designed to prevent sores developing from wearing face masks. The laundry bags, otherwise known as scrub bags, are designed to fit multiple pairs of medical scrubs so that they can be contained and easily washed, reducing the risk of contamination.

To date, Edie has made 20 scrub bags and 12 ear protectors. She has also started making protective personal equipment for a hospital in London.  


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