UNIVERSITY graduates have described the harrowing experience of working on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic.

The University of Essex has paid tribute to its alumni who are working in hospitals, and in the care sector, to keep people safe.

Luke Benstead, a nurse who graduated last year, is working at one of the county’s hospitals.

His unit has felt immense pressure to adapt to the Covid-19 outbreak with limited resources and less staff due to the Government’s guidelines on self-isolation.

He said: “Emotionally I have utilised my university skills with reflection in and on action.

“I have been writing a reflective diary every day to get my feelings out and try to understand what I could have done better in situations where decisions have been hard, or what is out of my control.”

Luke has seen patients die and the heartbreak of them not being able to be with their loved ones in their final hours.

He added: “I have also witnessed some beautiful things, hearing my patients talk on the phone to their relatives in their most vulnerable moments.

“All I can say to my patients is that I am trying my best.

“I am proud to be a nurse even if I am so junior in my role right now.”

Fellow Essex alumnus Sherry Eaglestone, who works as a palliative clinical nurse specialist, said the uncertainty of the situation was an ongoing challenge for her and her colleagues.

“The thing I’m finding the hardest is my patients are approaching the end of life and their families can’t grieve as they should,” she said.

“These people are dying as part of their illness and I cannot even console them by holding their hand or hugging their relative as we would normally.

“These are not normal times but we are trying to continue as normally as we can.”

Sarah Lee, head of nursing and health studies at the university, paid tribute to the former students. She said: “I am incredibly proud of how our alumni have simply stepped up to the challenge and are delivering exceptional care.”