One of the Sheffield Students’ Union Officers has started part-time work in the NHS, to support them through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Martha Evans, Activities Officer, announced recently that she was returning to her former role as a Healthcare Assistant in her hometown, on a part-time basis alongside her Officer duties.

“As the nature of the Covid-19 pandemic became clear, and the NHS called out for previous workers to return to their posts, I wanted to do my bit and return to work in the NHS in a role that I am very experienced in,” she said.

Martha ready for one of her first shifts as a Healthcare Assistant. (Image: Martha Evans(

“Every one of us has a collective responsibility to do their part in this national crisis, and this was a role in which I am useful and could balance with the responsibilities as Activities Officer.”

Martha had previously taken a year out before starting at university, and during this time worked in the same role, as well as seasonally returning during Christmas and Easter holidays.

The coronavirus pandemic has proved challenging for the NHS, and she added that it’s extremely different to previous times working there: “Some areas very much feel like the frontline of a national crisis, where the fight against Covid-19 is a daily battle presenting enormous challenges.

Read more: Sheffield University donate 160,000 items of PPE to fight coronavirus pandemic

“However, other areas of the hospital could almost feel how they did, except that staff must wear masks at all times and in a further measure to protect vulnerable patients, visitors are banned except in very limited cases.

“Working on a Sunday afternoon with no visitors for patients was a first since I began working for the NHS in 2015, and made the hospital feel even more quiet, eerie and generally uneasy.”

She is still working two days a week as an SU Officer, and splitting her workload with Britt Bowles, the Sports Officer. Martha paid tribute to the rest of the eight-strong Officer team for supporting her and helping her to do this.

Martha also praised the students who qualified early to work in the NHS this week, as well as students on placement who are continuing to work hard.

“I am hugely proud of all our students who have qualified early as Doctors, Nurses and Midwives, and are doing their bit on the NHS frontlines,” she said.

Read more: All face-to-face University of Sheffield teaching suspended due to coronavirus pandemic

“They will always be remembered for beginning their careers in the midst of a global pandemic, and should be commended for doing so. Furthermore, we must commend our Student Nurses who continue to work on placements, which may be on the frontlines, and are not paid to do so.”

Martha has started a blog, on which she’s promising to post her experiences working in the NHS, and in the first post said that as she was driving out of the hospital following one of her first shifts, she was able to experience the ‘clap for key workers’ first-hand. The weekly clap, taking place at 8.00pm every Thursday, has been a heart-warming addition to the last few weeks, showing the support for key workers around the country dealing with the global pandemic.

“The support and clap for our carers and so on has been wonderful to see and very much appreciated at this difficult time. It must be said however, that it has taken a global pandemic for appreciation for NHS staff, supermarket staff and other key workers (most often minimum wage workers too) to come to the public eye,” Martha told Forge Press.

“It would not be necessary for these workers to be labelled as ‘Heroes’ if they were remunerated at a proper rate.”

When asked, Martha also called for better planning for future pandemics, suggesting that professional advice was ignored in the weeks before coronavirus shut down the United Kingdom.

Martha in the PPE provided by the hospital, necessary to protect both patients and those looking after them. (Image: Martha Evans)

“In the future, there needs to be proper joined up planning for future pandemics in case one happens again. Reports have been written, advice has been given and unfortunately, this has been ignored because it didn’t seem urgent,” she said.

“Now that we are in this situation, the urgency is apparent and we appreciate how vital it is that we are prepared for this kind of event every day, of every week, of every year. In my opinion, the biggest mistake in the planning has been the lack of knowledge of where we could get PPE, ventilators, testing chemicals, reagents for testing kits etc at short notice in this country.

“British companies have answered the call for equipment and resources, but it needed greater coordination at a national level and coordination that has been planned for and considered in advance.”

Image: Rebekah Lowri

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