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Senior nursing students report feeling prepared but nervous about graduating into the healthcare field during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We did get disaster training in some of our courses that has taught us how to prioritize patients, but it was honestly more in the sense of if there was an earthquake or the Marathon bombing or something like that,” said senior nurse and President of the Student Nursing Association at Simmons, Patty Williams. “So this is beyond anybody’s wildest dreams of what could ever happen.”
Williams is one of 79 undergraduate nurses graduating from Simmons this year. According to a statement by Lepaine Sharp-McHenry, dean of the college of natural, behavioral, and health sciences which oversees the nursing department, many of the senior nurses plan to remain in Massachusetts to work.
Senior nursing student Bella Caruso said she is nervous about a potential lack of training when new nurses enter the workforce. She explained that there are “a lot of resources” required to train a new nurse and she fears hospitals will be less willing to give up those resources during the financially-taxing pandemic. Sam Magraw, another nursing student, said she knows people who have gotten jobs as nursing aids in Boston who have been given online orientations.
“I feel confident enough that if I had to do an online training I could do it,” said Magraw. She is working on the front lines of the pandemic as a Patient Care Assistant (PCA) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where her unit has been converted into a COVID Intensive Care Unit (ICU). She said she doesn’t think that the public actually understands how quickly the virus is spreading. “When you’re working in the ICUs, you’re seeing people being ventilated, and they’re unconscious, and they’re on all of these different medicines, and it’s really scary,” she said.
“I feel very prepared to go into the field of nursing, and I’m definitely very excited to finally graduate, but I don’t think anybody could have been prepared for the current situation,” said Caruso. Caruso is working as a PCA at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her unit has also been turned into a COVID ICU.
“I want to make sure I can get the amount of orientation and training that anybody should get during that time, I know that a lot of people who aren’t really ICU workers are getting like quick crash courses to work with the COVID patients in ICUs on ventilators,” said senior Maura Coughlin. “I don’t think they’d throw a new grad in that situation but if they really need us they could and I’m a little bit nervous about getting thrown in.”
Senior Donata Liu is nervous but eager to begin her career. “I feel Simmons has prepared all of their students well to not only be nurses but also to adapt,” said Liu.
Simmons has switched from a hands-on nursing curriculum that involves simulation labs and preceptorships to an online learning experience due to COVID-19. Despite this change, Liu feels that the classroom clinical experience students gained in their four years at Simmons along with jobs in hospitals as PCAs have provided students with the tools they need to start working in hospitals.