During the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant lockdown, UK health and social care students were offered the opportunity to become ‘early entrants’: nursing and midwifery students were asked to enter extended paid placements, while some student pharmacists, and students from allied health professions and social work opted to begin professional work pre-graduation. Early recruitment for all disciplines comprised efforts to combat expectations of the NHS becoming overwhelmed. Students entered a rapidly changing healthcare system facing significant uncertainty and flux, with continually shifting policies. While early-entrants contributed to the fight against Covid-19, they straddled expectations with their role as pre-graduation health and social care students. This paper highlights findings from our study exploring the experiences of health and social care students, who were offered the opportunity to enter practice early. Drawing on survey data and interviews with participants, we reimagine a socioecological theoretical framing to make sense of the complex stories and experiences of ‘early entrants’ and highlight that while manifestations are felt at the individual level, there are linkages to wider organisational, community, and public policy factors. We pay particular attention to connections between perceived ‘moral duties’, informal and formal communication, and impacts upon early entrants’ wellbeing. We argue that as we move beyond COVID-19 and into a post-COVID world, we have all become acutely aware of external pressures and limitations. We must learn from our own experiences and from research so that we consider the role of the individual as embedded within a complex system with varying pressures and expectations.

Cite as

Adams, N., Butler-Warke, A., Torrance, N., Grant, A., Kennedy, C., Kydd, A., Cunningham, S. & Douglas, F. 2021, 'Developing a socioecological framework of understanding to deconstruct the complex personal growth narratives of health and social care students, entering healthcare practice early during the Covid-19 pandemic', 2021 British Sociological Association (BSA) annual conference: remaking the future. https://rgu-repository.worktribe.com/output/1334872

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Last updated: 17 June 2022
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