A NEWLY-QUALIFIED nurse from Helensburgh has spoken of her pride at being able to contribute on the front line of the fight against the coronavirus.

Carla Lafferty, who turned 21 last week on International Nurses Day, has been forced to finish the rest of her three-year training course on the job as a paediatric nurse to help ease the strain on staff treating Covid-19 patients.

And going straight on to the wards at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) in Glasgow has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the former Our Lady and St Patrick's High School pupil.

Carla, who had been due to graduate from the University of Dundee in November, is one of hundreds of nursing students who were asked to do their bit during the pandemic by taking their place on the front line early.

She said being thrown in at the deep end during a global pandemic has been an "eye-opening experience" and one which was difficult to begin with but she is pleased with how she has adapted.

"I trained in Dundee so I was away from all my friends and then I was going to a new hospital, I had never been to the QEUH before, so it was really overwhelming but it's been great ever since and I'm settling in," she said.

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"It's just a process you need to get on with.

"It was daunting at the start because it was such a big hospital and such a big unit, it was a whole new kettle of fish to what I had experienced in Dundee.

"Going in early has given me confidence that I wouldn't have necessarily had when I was due to graduate in November. Glasgow is where I wanted to work so getting that opportunity to work there has been great.

"I find that I work a lot better when I'm learning on the job and I pick things up easier when I'm actually doing it.

"That's one of the reasons I chose nursing because it is a 50/50 learning course, you do 50 per cent theory and 50 per cent practice.

"I'd had placements throughout my whole three years of university but definitely, a bit like learning to drive, you don't actually learn until you're out there.

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"I always knew I wanted to work with kids so it was always between primary teaching and nursing.

"I feel quite proud to be a part of the NHS right now but I do feel like it is more of a team effort.

"There are so many people out there who are doing their bit and there are people who don't get the recognition."

Carla's mum Gillian said her daughter's 21st birthday had also coincided with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.

Gillian said: "She’s been fine so far. She took a wee while to adjust initially but, as she always does, she’s just embraced it, rolled her sleeves up and just got on with it.

"She’s rising to the challenge; nightshift certainly brings its own challenges for any shift worker, not just a nurse, but she seems to be enjoying it.

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"She’s enjoying being in and getting her experience, albeit that wee bit earlier.

"It brought its own uncertainties and challenges, she was worried naturally about making that transition [from university to workplace] and I think mentally it took her a wee while to adjust.

"There were so many unknowns because they didn’t know where they were going to go, they didn’t know when they would be placed in terms of what the government was trying to set out for them as third year students.

"It was a constant moving feast. Every day there was a change or an update to be given, so there was a lot of uncertainty at the very start, but she’s coped really well.

"Her training is now on the job. In normal circumstances there’s a 12-week sign-off period where they consolidate three years’ worth of learning and they go on placement, but that has now been superseded by six months in the field, first-hand.

"She’s working and learning at the same time."

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Gillian, like any parent, said that her overriding emotion was one of pride at her daughter's professional journey so far, despite the ongoing concerns over the spread of the virus in the health and care sector.

She said: "Initially it was a real worry because there was so much uncertainty around what was going to happen and where she would be working but now she’s in post and doing very well we’re just extremely proud.

"Given that she’s in the paediatric ward she’s at much lower risk and there are front line nurses who are working directly with Covid-19 patients; Carla’s not one of them.

"She’s working in a hospital environment and similar to every key worker it all brings its own challenges and it does have its own worries, but they have their infection controls in place and she’s adopted the precautions and measures that need to be taken.

"They are all playing their part and as we’ve said to her it’s history in the making."

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