Baron and Lady Carrickfergus – as The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are known in Northern Ireland – made a call to student nurses on Tuesday, to learn about the work they are carrying out and to thank them for it.
In two separate zoom calls, the couple spoke with a group of students from Ulster University, who were stood around a dummy in full PPE, and then with Abigail McGarvey, a first-year adult nursing student at the same university.
The calls took place so that William and Catherine could hear more about their experience of studying during the pandemic and also what it is like to be on the frontline of Northern Ireland’s response to the Coronavirus.
The Ulster University School of Nursing has around 1,600 registered students and is ranked in the top 50 of nursing schools in the world. In March 2020, their students were asked to join the frontline in the fight against COVID-19.
While speaking to Abigail, the couple learned that she was following in the footsteps of her grandmother, mother and sister in becoming a nurse. She shared her experiences with the Duke and Duchess, telling them that ‘it isn’t ideal’ as they are dealing with patients who ‘can’t see their families, and there are some that have been in hospital for months’.
During the call, the students discussed their appreciation for the invaluable experiences they have gained working on the frontline, and the support they received from @UlsterUni during this challenging period. pic.twitter.com/4HzJ4yT2QD
— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) February 10, 2021
She stressed that it is ‘really important’ that the frontline workers are there for those patients. She continued: “We are there if they have a bad day. We are there when they have good days as well.”
She also told the couple that ‘it is really nice to be there for them’.
Abigail kept a video diary to illustrate a typical shift during her first placement as a student nurse. She shared that video with the couple who, in turn, shared it with the public on their social media channels. In the video, Abigail is seen getting up for a night shift, travelling to work and putting on her PPE – which consists of a mask, apron, gloves and visor. She is later shown putting on higher-protection PPE so that she can work with Covid-positive patients.
When asked by Prince William if training in a pandemic had changed her thoughts on becoming a nurse, Abigail told him that the opposite had happened. She said the experience has ‘really confirmed that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life – this is the job I was meant to do’.
Speaking to a group taking part in practical clinical sessions at the University’s Magee Campus in Londonderry, the Duke said he could imagine how difficult it was for them to have gone straight onto the frontline during such a difficult time in the healthcare system. “I imagine it has been totally crazy and very difficult to find your feet” he Duke told lecturer Stephanie Dunleavey, and year 3 nursing students Elizabeth Semerdzhieva, Rachel Reid and Paige Murray.
Elizabeth Semerdzhieva told the couple that it was scary being on the frontline at the beginning but that ‘you really want to go out more now. You can’t wait to get out in practice, and feel like you are helping’.
The Duchess of Cambridge, who has family and patronage ties to nursing, spoke about nursing as a profession: “Nursing is one of the most trusted professions in the country.”
“It’s needed now more than ever.”
She congratulated those working on the frontline, telling them their work should be celebrated and that it showed real commitment on their part for stepping up to the plate at this time in history.
The team at The Crown Chronicles would like to take this opportunity to say a massive THANK YOU to all student nurses and all frontline workers putting themselves at risk everyday, alongside other medical staff – you truly are heroes.