Volunteer student nurses are “scared but excited” to join the NHS front line, as more than 15,000 prepare to start work in UK hospitals in the next few weeks.
Last month, the government called on second and final-year nursing and midwifery students to volunteer and boost NHS capacity as it deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students were not obliged to opt-in but over the past three weeks thousands have joined.
Harriet Nadin, a final-year nursing student at Sheffield Hallam University, told Sky News: “We don’t know exactly what we’re getting into, but it’s our chance to help and support the NHS, and that’s what we want to do.
“It’s a bit crazy,” she added, “but it’ll be a good opportunity to learn from.”
Final-year student Emily Woodridge added: “We want to work in the NHS anyway and as student nurses I think helping out the struggling workforce is definitely top of our priorities.”
Miss Woodridge, like other final-year students, was not due to start work until after the completion of her undergraduate programme.
“I do feel nervous,” she said.
“It’s the unknown, really, not knowing what it’s going to be like.
“We are being supported by the university and the individual trusts but it is still quite hard to get your head around that instead of easing into work in September – we’re going straight into this.”
Volunteers will be paid for their work, and roles will include supporting more experienced NHS staff.
Professor Sally Shearer, executive director of nursing at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, said she felt “humbled” by the number of students who had volunteered.
“When we first started talking about doing this, we thought that it could work,” she said.
“But then the take-up, commitment and the will of people who want to be able to come and help out at this time, that has just been absolutely outstanding.”