Barbara Howard, The University of Sheffield, UK
COVID-19 has certainly been a force for change in neonatal academia. Like a typhoon it has spun through our relatively ordered world, thrown everything in the air and left students and academics trying to guess where things will settle when this is all over. On the negative side I have seen the impact upon students working clinically, both emotionally and physically. The effects of these stresses vary across individuals but affect all to some degree. I have seen carefully planned teaching sessions and assessments collapse at a moment’s notice, affecting students, teachers and the clinical areas desperate for more qualified in speciality neonatal nurses. The sense of loss is unsettling and profound. But there is a flip side to this; I have seen the best of my students as they have stepped up to the challenges in a professional and caring manner which makes me proud of them and of our profession. University colleagues and myself have been on an incredibly steep learning curve as the university moves online to deliver teaching, tutorials and academic assessments; COVID-19 has driven very rapid changes in higher education which I believe could be of real benefit to future neonatal nursing students. These different ways of learning could benefit part-time and distance students and offer flexibility in studying appreciated by those juggling the demands of family life and full-time employment. We should never underestimate the threat of COVID-19. We should never forget the sacrifices made and the lives of loved ones lost, but from this threat comes opportunity for change in neonatal nursing education and the chance to make it better than before. As neonatal nurses we should reflect on this, then lead forward together.