When Holly Bray started her degree in Adult Nursing at the University of South Wales (USW), nothing could have prepared her for what she’d face during the final months of her studies.
But the 23-year-old, from Llanelli, found herself on the frontline during the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic – as a student nurse in Intensive Care (ICU) at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital.
Now, she’s set to graduate from USW with a first class honours degree, and has already made her mark as an staff nurse in ICU at Glangwili Hospital, Carmarthen.
“I’ve always enjoyed helping people, so nursing seemed a natural career for me,” said Holly, who studied Health and Social Care at college before applying to USW.
“It was quite tough moving away from home and leaving my family, but I loved my time at university. I was getting to work towards a brilliant career while having the amazing facilities at the Clinical Simulation Centre.
“I started the course from scratch, with no clinical experience, so being able to practice all my skills before going out on placement was a huge help.”
Holly undertook placements on medical wards, surgical settings, community, operating theatres, intensive care (ICU) and palliative care at a local hospice, gaining experience in almost every aspect of nursing.
But after her stint on ICU at the start of the pandemic, she realised that was the area she wanted to pursue a career in.
“I moved to Llantrisant so that I could stay on site while working at the Royal Glamorgan. It was the first wave of the pandemic so no-one could imagine then, how long it could go on for.
“That was really tough as it meant I couldn’t go home to see my family for a few months, and it was a stressful time doing my dissertation as well. But, at the same time, it was rewarding knowing I was making a difference to those people in critical care.
“It was a shock to say the least – realising that my first real taste of the job would be in the height of a global pandemic! We’d never prepared for anything like this, but we knew a little of what to expect from seeing what other countries had faced before Covid-19 hit the UK.
“A lot of us couldn’t believe what we were going into work and seeing, and it was upsetting to see the families who weren’t able to spend time with their loved ones during their final days.
“But I’m so proud to be working in the NHS, and being part of the fight against Coronavirus. I’ll certainly never forget the year I graduated. And if I can work through a pandemic, I can tackle anything!”