Kate Middleton praises student nurses and says they are ‘needed now more than ever’

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sympathised with student nurses and told them that starting work placements in a pandemic must have been a ‘baptism of fire’ during a video call on Tuesday. 

Prince William, 38, and Kate Middleton, 39, were speaking to young men and women from Ulster University to hear more about their experience of studying during the pandemic and experiencing the frontline of Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 response.

As three students were stood around a dummy in a bed as they assessed the mock-patient, Prince William said: ‘It is very difficult for you guys to go straight into a pandemic, I would imagine. That’s really baptism by fire.’

‘I imagine it has been totally crazy and very difficult to find your feet…head on fire, the whole time.’

Prince William, 38, and Kate Middleton, 39, spoke to nursing students from Ulster University via video call to hear more about their experiences of studying during the pandemic on Tuesday

Prince William, 38, and Kate Middleton, 39, spoke to nursing students from Ulster University via video call to hear more about their experiences of studying during the pandemic on Tuesday

Prince William, 38, and Kate Middleton, 39, spoke to nursing students from Ulster University via video call to hear more about their experiences of studying during the pandemic on Tuesday

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (pictured, left) joined a video call with a group of second and third year students taking part in practical clinical sessions at the University's Magee Campus in Derry/Londonderry. Pictured, Stephanie Dunleavey, Lecturer in the School of Nursing, Ulster University - Elizabeth (Lisa) Semerdzhieva, Year 3 Nursing student - Rachel Reid, Year 3 Nursing student - Paige Murray, Year 3 Nursing student

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (pictured, left) joined a video call with a group of second and third year students taking part in practical clinical sessions at the University's Magee Campus in Derry/Londonderry. Pictured, Stephanie Dunleavey, Lecturer in the School of Nursing, Ulster University - Elizabeth (Lisa) Semerdzhieva, Year 3 Nursing student - Rachel Reid, Year 3 Nursing student - Paige Murray, Year 3 Nursing student

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (pictured, left) joined a video call with a group of second and third year students taking part in practical clinical sessions at the University’s Magee Campus in Derry/Londonderry. Pictured, Stephanie Dunleavey, Lecturer in the School of Nursing, Ulster University – Elizabeth (Lisa) Semerdzhieva, Year 3 Nursing student – Rachel Reid, Year 3 Nursing student – Paige Murray, Year 3 Nursing student

‘It’s scary,’ said one of the third years, Elizabeth Semerdzhieva. ‘Although it was frightening at the start, you really want to go out more now. You can’t wait to get out in practice, and feel like you are helping. That’s what we were born to do.’

Kate, who paired a smart blazer with round-neck top, added: ‘Nursing is one of the most trusted professions in the country. You could not have chosen a better career choice. It’s needed now more than ever.

‘You’ve got almost three generations now – those coming back from retirement, and you guys doing your training who are stepping up – it shows real commitment and real team work, and it should really be celebrated, so really well done.’

The Cambridges also chatted separately to Abigail McGarvey, a first-year adult nursing student, who told them: ‘It isn’t ideal, and it is unfortunate that you have your patients when they can’t see their families, and there are some that have been in hospital for months, they don’t have anyone else to talk to apart from us. 

But that is part of the job and that is what makes it so nice, because they don’t have the emotional support from their family that they would have been getting. It is really important that we are there for them.

‘We are there if they have a bad day. We are there when they have good days as well. It is really nice to be there for them.’ 

Kate Middleton (left, and right, Prince William) praised the group of student nurses soon to join the profession telling them they were 'needed now more than ever'

Kate Middleton (left, and right, Prince William) praised the group of student nurses soon to join the profession telling them they were 'needed now more than ever'

Kate Middleton (left, and right, Prince William) praised the group of student nurses soon to join the profession telling them they were ‘needed now more than ever’

The Cambridges chatted separately to Abigail McGarvey, a first-year adult nursing student who has kept a video diary to illustrate a typical shift during her first placement as a student nurse

The Cambridges chatted separately to Abigail McGarvey, a first-year adult nursing student who has kept a video diary to illustrate a typical shift during her first placement as a student nurse

The Cambridges chatted separately to Abigail McGarvey, a first-year adult nursing student who has kept a video diary to illustrate a typical shift during her first placement as a student nurse

Abigail McGarvey (pictured, left) told the royals about some of the challenges she had faced, including the emotional impact of patients being unable to receive visits from their families

Abigail McGarvey (pictured, left) told the royals about some of the challenges she had faced, including the emotional impact of patients being unable to receive visits from their families

Abigail McGarvey (pictured, left) told the royals about some of the challenges she had faced, including the emotional impact of patients being unable to receive visits from their families

She added that her grandmother, mother and sister were all nurses and remarked: ‘I couldn’t really escape it.’

Abigail kept a video diary to illustrate a typical shift during her first placement as a student nurse.

In footage she is seen getting up for a night shift, travelling to work and putting on personal protective equipment (PPE) of a mask, apron, gloves and visor – later she puts on higher-grade protection for working with Covid-19 positive patients. 

William asked if training in a pandemic had changed her thoughts on becoming a nurse, and the student replied: ‘It 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.’ 

Abigail continued: ‘My first day on the wards I showed up and within a few hours there was a massive cardiac arrest.

‘And seeing everything just go up in the air, and how the team comes together, and how everyone is really working to look after these patients – it really just solidified that this is exactly what I want to do.’

Ranked in the top 50 nursing schools in the world, Ulster University’s School of Nursing has approximately 1600 students registered.

At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, students were asked to join the front line. 

Student placements were adapted to meet the needs and demands of the health service, with the majority of students being placed in COVID-19 areas in both hospital and community settings.

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