By Jordan Cochran
As higher education continues to experience many unexpected changes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, one program that has felt the immediate impact is nursing.
Like other programs, courses shifted online, which meant fewer clinicals for nursing students to attend. While in clinical settings, Reinhardt University’s student nurses Brooke Briendl ’22, Sarah Byess ’21 and Alyssa Debner ’21 came face-to-face with the results of the virus.
“The pandemic has made everything even more crazy than nursing school already is,” said Breindl . “Since everyone is trying to prevent the spread, our class meetings or clinicals may change in a second to keep everyone safe. It’s definitely stressful for us, just like this pandemic has been for everyone.”
Reinhardt’s Cauble School of Nursing & Health Sciences’ faculty have worked hard to ensure students receive as much clinical experience as possible, while working in emergency rooms and intensive care units outside of teaching. While the burden can be heavy, Breindl finds inspiration in her obligations to her work.
“The virus has definitely added pressure going into the healthcare field because each worker carries a lot of responsibility, but it also has motivated me to do my absolute best to care for others who are suffering and make them feel comfortable,” said Breindl.
“It is an exciting yet chaotic time to be entering the health care field trying to keep up with new information and hospital protocols,” said Debner. “It can be a challenge wearing a mask all of the time especially with patients who have dementia and don’t fully understand what is going on – we can tend to look scary with all of our PPE on. It is also difficult for the patients to be alone and not have family with them.”
Reinhardt’s student nurses now gain experience in new ways as they administer COVID-19 vaccinations and spend time at Reinhardt’s Student Health Center assisting Campus Nurse Kristy Hough. Debner will work at the health center in the coming weeks and has a clinical scheduled at the Paulding County Health Department to help with vaccinations.
“Reinhardt University nursing students have been a breath of fresh air working in our Student Health Center,” said Hough. “I am so impressed with the optimism and enthusiasm shown in our students. Our clinical nursing instructors have taken something so ugly as a viral pandemic and created a beautiful, hands-on opportunity that most nursing students may never have a chance to experience. I do not believe this virus will be gone any time soon; however, I have the confidence we all will be well taken care of, and our students will be highly educated to combat anything that may come their way.”
Through the additional obstacles Reinhardt’s nursing students must handle, there have been moments that continue to provide hope, such as the moment Debner experienced with a declining patient.
“We attempted to bring her out of sedation since she was being mechanically ventilated so that we could assess her breathing. Right as the patient started to wake up, her daughter walked in. She said she was at work and felt something told her she had to leave right then and go see her mother. She burst into tears when she saw her mom open her eyes and look at her. She said that she didn’t think she would ever get to see her mom alive again. It was a beautiful moment to see.”
As Reinhardt’s student nurses prepare to take their next steps into their careers, they do so with the knowledge they are following their calling. These student nurses – along with nurses around the world – continue to adapt to learn and grow while battling the virus. They encourage others to do their part in following guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“I would encourage others to follow CDC guidelines and practice social distancing as well as getting the COVID vaccine if possible,” said Debner.
“I would encourage others to wash their hands frequently, wear their mask when going out, and social distance,” Byess said. “Just do your best, that’s all any of us can really ask for. Wear your mask like the people you love most lives depend on it, because one day it might. I pray that everyone stays safe and we can get this under control soon!”
“Obviously this virus isn’t what we would have chosen, but if we all do our part and are considerate of the people around us, hopefully we can get back to seeing everyone’s beautiful faces soon! And I’m encouraged to remember God is in control of it all; even when it seems crazy to us, He isn’t stressed or surprised,” said Breindl.