Photo by Joshua Mcknight from Pexels
By Morgan Stevens
COVID-19 has impacted all students in some way. For nursing students, it has become harder to graduate and finish school. Nurses are required to have a certain number of in person lab hours. With Covid restrictions, nurses have to be split up into smaller groups in order to enter hospitals which also means that each person receives less time doing labs due to the number of groups that there are. Bert Balagot, a Clinical Instructor at Skagit Valley College says, “We used to have a clinical group of 10 students come into the hospital and work two or three days a week with their clinical instructor, however, because of Covid, they split the groups into 5 people. The groups are smaller, but the number of clinicals they are getting is not like it used to be.” Balagot worries that upon graduating, nurses will not be as prepared as they should be to take their final test and graduate smoothly.
Another struggle that contributes to this is not being able to work with live patients. Right now, to compensate for that, students are working with virtual labs or people that live in their own home. There are a couple problems with this though. First, when students use people in their homes, they are usually only able to see what healthy vitals are like, apposed to being able to work in the hospital and see many different types of vitals. The second problem with online labs is that nurses are only able to hear recordings, they are not able to actually be in person and hear the differences there.
Not all challenges that these nurses are facing are bad though. Nurses need to be able to adapt to any situation and be ready for the unknown ahead of them. Shannon FitzMaurice, a nursing student explains this saying, “being a nurse means adapting to all situations. I feel like my cohort has made a Valiant effort in adapting to the pandemic and it’s given us confidence forward in nursing.” Crystal Manion another nursing student says that adaptivity was one of the only positives she took away from this situation as well. FitzMaurice also brings up another point saying, “I’ve become very aware of the importance of washing my hands.” This is again, another positive that the unique situation of this pandemic has brought to nursing students.
Nursing student, along with lots of other students have to become more self-taught. Instead of being in the classroom listening to lectures all day and being in labs learning, students now have pre-recorded videos and textbooks. This may impact the ability that some future nurses have to take care of real patients. Manion says, nobody planned on becoming self-taught nurses. When we were supposed to have the bulk of our clinical in person time in the hospital, we got to sit in front of computers with patients. The lack of experience has a lot of nurses worried about taking charge in a real life or death situation that we could face as new grads.”
The impact that COVID-19 could have on nurses is frightening to themselves. The fear that many have of not graduating though is not at a loss. Many programs are coming up with ways to keep students on track and involved in learning. Some students have unfortunately dropped out of nursing programs because of the new, unexpected challenges that they have to face. Classmates of these students have said that this is sad because as Balagot says, “we are getting creative with ways to make sure our students are getting enough lab hours.” This should hopefully calm nervous nursing students and reassure them that this is not a waste of their time.