By Liz Ciocher
Covid-19 changed how everything everywhere worked, but what changes did the schools who are responsible for teaching nurses face?
Schools of all different disciplines had to adapt to new regulations that followed the pandemic. Everything was changing, but the schools that were perhaps most dramatically affected were nursing schools.
“The pandemic affected those that are graduating because they had less hands on,” said Dr. Tracy Perron, the nursing department chair at the College. “They are at a little bit of a disadvantage because they are going to need to catch up.”
Like most courses in 2020, students in the nursing program received their education remotely.
“Our core fundamentals of nursing were online,” said Demi Hernandez, a senior nursing major. “We didn't have learning the basics in person, like the students before us did. We struggled in that for a while. We kind of just were thrown into clinical.”
While learning nursing at a slower pace was completely out of the students’ control, their professors were doing everything they could to try and bring back a regular learning environment.
“In lieu of clinical, we did a lot of simulations and virtual clinical trials,” Perron said. “A lot of textbook partners and simulation partners came up with some really innovative ideas, and they gave us access for free.”
Like in-person nursing programs prior to the pandemic, the students gained most of their knowledge from real-life clinical trials. There were a few modifications, but this major requirement was still achievable in the remote learning environment.
“Lectures were online, but we could still bring students to the clinical sites,” Perron explained. “We were only allowed to bring half the amount of students we had in the past, so we did some online clinical in lieu of some clinical hours to get a similar experience.”
The students are very appreciative of what they’ve learned in both the online and real-life clinical setting.
“They’re really difficult [clinical studies], but you gain so much experience in clinical that it's definitely worth it,” Hernandez said when asked about the trials she experienced.
Although these changes made the learning experience harder, finding a job after persevering such a strenuous education has never been easier.
“There has definitely been hospitals trying to get a want for nurses with everything that’s been going on,” Hernandez said. “There’s a lot of people that are burnt out from the pandemic. It's nice knowing I have this job security, but I’m also thinking in the back of my head like, ‘what am I getting myself into?’”
Mental challenges are another struggle these nursing students are facing. With such a high demand for nurses, the pressure is on.
“Honestly, I could see where people could get scared of it [becoming a nurse], but it made me more passionate about it because it can show what the role of nurses do,” said Hernandez. “I wore full gowns and N95 masks for 12 hour shifts and it was brutal, but when I saw these nurses that were still happy with where they are and how they are close with each other, it made me feel like I would want to be part of this.”
The stakes were raised, but the College’s Nursing School accepted and overcame each challenge. Their students gained a stronger sense of achievement and willpower, bound to make them excellent nurses.
“We are resilient, we are resourceful, and I think everyone came together to make sure the students got what they needed and graduated with the best education they could get under the circumstances,” Perron said. “I couldn’t be more proud of everything they’ve gone through.”