Thousands of student nurses are joining frontline workers on placements in the battle against coronavirus.
Across Scotland, around 12,000 students have stepped forward to join the fight amid rising Covid admission rates.
More than 3000 nursing and midwifery students have volunteered and will head out on placements this month, which will see them continue to work towards their degrees as planned.
In addition, a further 7,000 student placements will be spread across the service in February, accompanied by 1,500 Allied Health Professional students, and more than 500 paramedic students.
It comes following sustained pressure on NHS frontline workers, with official figures this week showing that Covid admissions are rising at a rate 45% faster than they did last winter.
Mother-of-three Natalie Elliott, an honours nursing student at Glasgow Caledonian University, was one of the first students to go out on supervised hospital placements in April 2020.
She said: “I learned so much. The experience has helped boost my confidence and improved my performance.
“It was a real privilege to be part of the pandemic response and to feel that you’ve made that little bit of a difference. There was a sense of camaraderie on the wards and I really felt part of the team.
“It has also helped me develop more self-awareness.
“Nursing can be stressful, but I’ve learned to look after myself and be more resilient when I feel overwhelmed with the challenges I face, particularly when wards are short staffed and there are difficult cases to deal with.”
Health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “As part of their professional programme of education, and throughout the pandemic, these students have worked tirelessly to support our NHS, making an invaluable contribution to the delivery of care as part of their supervised practice in health and social care environments.
“As we go into a third year facing up to the challenges of COVID, we are fortunate to combine good quality learning attained by students as part of their supervised practice with the positive impact these students have on the delivery of safe, effective patient care and their ongoing support of our NHS.
“And I wholeheartedly thank them for their hard work during this difficult time.”
Steve Walls, senior charge nurse at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, said: “As part of their learning experience, students have adapted to what has been very challenging time, providing the highest quality of care as valued members of clinical teams across a broad range of services, from our hospitals to the community.
“For me it has been fantastic to see how they have developed while providing an extra pair of hands, eyes and ears to make sure our patients are safely cared for as we respond to the pandemic.
“They also bring with them an enthusiasm that can lift the mood of a shift.”