Student nurse graduates to front line with help of Cycling UK

A young man and woman standing in the suburban street with bikes
Lucy with Jacques Bramley, who also works as a student nurse at Southampton General Hospital
The Big Bike Revival has helped thousands of people to take their first steps to cycle in the last five years. This year, the project's delivery centres are helping key workers by providing free bike loans, maintenance work and equipment and discounts. Cycling UK's Rich Wevill spoke to one student nurse who is taking her first steps into the world of work and cycling during uncertain times.

She should have been revising to sit her final exams this month, but instead Lucy Wilcox is working 13 hour shifts on a COVID-positive ward, travelling to and from the hospital on a bike provided by Cycling UK’s Big Bike Revival scheme.

Lucy, 21, is a final year student at the University of Southampton who along with many of her cohort graduated early to join the NHS teams on the wards supporting the COVID-19 response. 

Lucy found public transport was unreliable and so access to a discounted bike from Monty’s Bike Hub in Southampton enabled her to arrive at the city’s General Hospital in plenty of time for the start of her 7.15am shift.

She explained: “Cycling to work allows me to arrive 20 minutes before my shift starts and have a good start to the day.

“Being able to cycle has made all the difference, as I no longer worry about being late for the nursing handover which allows me to give the best care to all my patients."

Having a reliable bike to get me to work on time, has made such a difference.

Lucy Wilcox, nurse

Lucy said she and her fellow students had been writing their dissertations and preparing for exams and graduation a few months ago when they learnt that their time as students were being cut short to allow them to join the NHS as part of the emergency response to the virus. 

"We never expected to be doing this so soon," she said. "The first couple of weeks we were quite well-staffed but after a fortnight, our staff numbers were down because some people had symptoms and couldn’t come to work and I was looking after my own patients, I had someone with me but I was responsible for those patients and that’s when it really hit me."

Lucy said after locking her bike up in the morning she looked forward to riding home in the evening. “I am able to leave straight away and not have to rely on waiting for public transport and it gives me time to think about everything that has happened in the day and I ride through some nice parkland on my way home as well. I thought I would be exhausted given the long shifts I am working but I always have the energy to ride home.”

Before lockdown began, Lucy said she would swim three times a week but since pools had closed, she was now finding cycling the three miles each way from home to the hospital was helping her keep fit.

Living in a houseshare with two other nurses who were going through similar challenges is helping provide mutual support and is staying in touch with family via Facetime, but Lucy said having received the bike from Monty's was also enabling her to enjoy being able to go for a cycle and have some time to herself on her days off.

Despite the challenges, Lucy said she was thinking about how her future career direction might lie in working on the wards. “Before all this began I had applied for a job in intensive care, but I can really see myself working on the wards. You get to spend more time with the patients and build up a relationship with them, you get to know little things like their favourite drink or how they like their tea that you wouldn’t on an intensive care unit," she said.

“Graduating early to support the NHS and working on a COVID positive ward has not been an easy experience,” Lucy added. “But having a reliable bike to get me to work on time, has made such a difference. I just want to say thank you to Monty’s Bike Hub and everyone that has made this possible.”