By Savanna Klem, COM 250 Reporter
Edited by Mary Grace vonThron, COM 303 Reporter
MOUNT BERRY, Ga.- Nursing students were able to return to hospitals to gain experience with slight changes in logistics and experience.
The era of the COVID pandemic has impacted many of the programs here at Berry, but there was special concern with the nursing students who complete their clinical hours with local hospitals. Luckily, nursing students have been able to get back into the field, with a few changes and precautions.
When nursing students go to the hospitals, they are gaining critical clinical experience. The program begins the first full week of the student’s junior year. The process begins with just getting used to the hospital setting. The students aid their assigned nurse collect vital signs, complete paperwork on patients, and begin to adjust to talking to patients. As the weeks progress, students gain more responsibility as they begin to gain the qualifications to administer different medications. Once they reach their senior year students are able to gain an internship with a unit such as the Intensive Care Unit where they do the full job of a nurse with supervision.
Senior student Avery Cornett commented on how the experience in hospitals helps the students.
“It really gives us an opportunity to grow in our confidence.” Cornett said. “We do a bunch of practice here but it’s totally different with real people that interact with you. You get that patient relationship.”
It was important that the students were able to get back into the hospitals this semester. Program Director Pam Dunagan explained that Berry had to request more spots within the Floyd Medical Center and Redmond Regional Medical Center, as hospitals regulated how many students could be in a unit at a time. Whereas before a unit may have allowed 4 students now only 2 are allowed.
There are more regulations in place within the hospitals in response to COVID. To begin with students completed a training course to correctly put on personal protective equipment, where the different equipment would be used based on unit, and what would be available to them. This varies by hospital but at Floyd they are given a facemask, goggles, a face-shield and an N-95 respirator for the semester and PPE is available for students when they arrive at Redmond.
Dunagan commented on the limitations of students with concern to COVID patients.
“We made sure that our students did not go into COVID units or COVID rooms.” Dunagan said. “They cannot take care of patients with COVID or suspected to have COVID.”
However, the changes for this semester extend past the logistics of the students’ time in the hospitals. As Cornett mentioned, a large part of the experience gained relates to patient interaction and comfort with the environment.
Senior Lauren Smith commented on the new restrictions on entering non-COVID rooms and visitation policies.
“Where normally I could go into a patient’s room with no mask and my computer and interview them and their family would be there, their family member isn’t there.” Smith said.
This effects patient comfort as far as speaking with a nurse. There is also the concern without visitors that if a patient is elderly or unable to communicate effectively, rather than asking a family member, the student has to refer back to the information collected when the patient was first admitted. This change has impacted the personal aspect of the clinical experience.
Cornett commented on the change in patient relationships.
“You don’t really get that patient interaction and trust.” Cornett said. “They can’t see your facial expressions or smile, and a smile in a hospital goes a long way.”
Cornett went on to explain how these patients are at their lowest points, they are scared and nervous. Nurses and students are unable to give a reassuring smile or touch on the arm. Patients are already nervous from being in a hospital and the extra fear of COVID. Without that extra connection and comfort, it feels foreign for both the nursing students and the patients.
In spite of the extra precautions and limitations, the experience that the nursing students gain in the hospitals is still necessary for their progression through their education. Both Cornett and Smith expressed their relief of getting to go into the hospital this semester. The reality of their field is that stressful situations will occur, so learning in a high stress environment will be valuable in the long run.