Ashley Bonini has experienced a lot in what can now be classed as her first year as a nurse on the frontline.
She was deployed to help the NHS at the start of the coronavirus pandemic as part of a drive to support staff battling the deadly disease.
The student mental health nurse had to get used to a new way of working and the pressure that comes with helping patients day-in, day-out while in the middle of the biggest health crisis in a generation.
Add into the mix her own battle with Covid-19 which took her out the game for four weeks and it makes Ashley’s efforts over the past year even more admirable.
She is now a staff nurse in Moredun Ward at Murray Royal Hospital and her student background has also proved valuable as she has been able to support patients both physically and mentally on the wards.
Ashley is already a well-known mental health advocate across Dundee after her work with the Let’s Talk Tayside Facebook page, a forum for people to air their struggles.
Now she is using that experience, as well as what she has learned at university, to offer support to others.
She said: “I got into care in my mid 20s but after years of physical illness I decided I would love to give back to the NHS.
“I started out as a support worker in a challenging behaviour unit and worked there for 12 years.
“I decided maybe I should look into doing my mental health training. I had my Scottish Vocational Qualification 2 & 3 and gained entry into Abertay University.
“While studying, I became one of the deployed students at the start of the pandemic and I feel very privileged to have been part of it.
“I’m now seven months into my role with the most amazing and supportive team.
“Without Covid I probably would never have ended up in the job I’m in now.
“Some days are far more challenging than others by far in this line of work, but with the correct training and support we are all there for one another.”
Ashley still runs Let’s Talk Tayside and is under no illusions how much the pandemic has played a part in people’s struggles.
She added: “There is little doubt this is a very difficult and trying time for all of us.
“I have had literally hundreds of private messages from people whose mental health concerns are rocketing.
“Add that to the people who have posted their fears and concerns on the group’s social media page and there is no doubt that very many people are very afraid about the foreseeable future.”
“For anyone with mental health issues, anxiety, depression, or already suffering from isolation and loneliness, this has definitely been a dreadful time.”
Tomorrow marks Mental Health Nurse Day, which celebrates those who have gone the extra mile to support their patients.
NHS Tayside will celebrate the event by highlighting the nurses who have stepped up to the mark to help others, including some who were students, like Ashley, answering a call to arms at the beginning of the pandemic.
At the time, health bosses appealed to trainees in their final year of study to don their scrubs early and finish their qualification in the hospital due to the level of demand expected when cases of Covid-19 increased.
Those students were showing huge courage, both professionally and personally, as they were thrown into the deep end at work and also at risk of catching the virus itself.
Ashley herself was a victim of Covid-19 and said: “I was extremely unwell and bed bound for days. I literally couldn’t stand up and was very breathless – luckily however, I never needed hospital care.
“I am now on the mend, although I am still breathless at times and my bones and joints still really hurt and that’s four weeks later.
“I never imagined that we, as student nurses, would be deployed in a worldwide pandemic. I was apprehensive at first like all the students but then the more you work, the more privileged you feel to be given the opportunity.
“There were plenty of tears both happy and sad along the way.”
NHS Tayside has created a series of videos to direct people on how to find out more about mental health nursing, including how to get started on the career path at the University of Dundee or choosing NHS Tayside as a place to come to work in mental health services.