Leaving the shallow end: student to pandemic frontline

'Last week I worked my normal physio hours, flying between Health Care of the Older Person (HCOP) wards at Nottingham’s two hospitals.'

by Miri King who studied at the University of Nottingham (BSc Hons physiotherapy, 1st class honours) and is a band 5 rotational physiotherapist at Nottingham University Hospitals
Twitter: @MKing_Physio

Some Covid-19 sufferers, some clean. Some successful rehab steps, some sad deaths. Countless staff are off sick and ICU continues to expand, so on the Saturday I took a volunteer nursing assistant shift in ICU – a stabbing; end of life Covid-19 care; amazing esprit de corps; an insight into frontline respiratory support- an exhausting but exciting challenge.

Miranda (Miri) King
Miri King studied at the University of Nottingham

Rewind to summer 2020 and finishing university in a pandemic was never going to be easy. My student life of study, sport and peanut butter on toast gave way to a norm of no practical; online assessments; fitting back into family life and finally, the scary two-hour virtual interview leading to the offer of my dream job - a band 5 physio rotational role with Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH).

The excitement of returning, being measured for the uniform and knowing that finally I am a real physio didn’t come without moments of questioning my competency. Although I’d had lots of responsibility in my final year, there is always the safety net of having a clinical educator to turn to and writing “student PT” on the notes.  

Miri King
Rotational physiotherapist Miri King ​

When I started work, Covid-19 cases were manageable, and I was assigned to an elective orthopaedic ward where no one had the virus and our strong team was intact. Fast forward five months and the only things not to have changed are that I’m still in Nottingham and still in love with physiotherapy (and peanut butter!).

The always-daunting first job situation was heightened by the reality of being redeployed to a Covid-19 ward in the peak of the second wave. I was the new kid in the room again and I felt quite overwhelmed. I think all new graduates worry that work will be nothing like placement, but it helps that at NUH, newly qualifieds are put on a preceptorship programme of regular meetings with other band 5s, assigned a ‘buddy’ and given good supervision.

When I joined the trust, I told myself, “you’re not going to change the world, but you can make small differences to people’s lives.” You can be imaginative, compassionate and build a precious rapport with patients at their most vulnerable. HCOP is the bread and butter of physio – mobilisation, ward management and discharge planning. There’s support and unity in the team but particularly due to the pandemic, you are somewhat left to fend for yourself. 

Now it’s ‘B5PT’ after my name and with that comes decision making, responsibility and holding your own with  pushy consultants; but trust me, university prepares you in many ways. You will develop without noticing and soon be putting skills into practice. My physio best mate once said “you’ll never learn to swim unless you leave the shallow end.”

Just make sure you pack your arm bands.'


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