WASHINGTON, DC — The COVID-19 pandemic has overshadowed much of the college experience for this year’s class, but nursing school graduates may have felt it more intensely.
The pandemic required them to first learn very practical online procedures, and also constantly reminded them of the necessity of the field they had chosen and its challenges.
Early in the pandemic, news stories depicted frontline nurses suffering from burnout and burnout as they cared for patients with COVID-19 and were often the only ones with those patients when they died.
As the pandemic continued, hospitals across the country reported nursing shortages, but conversely, nursing schools had increased numbers of applicants.
The week before graduation, six graduates of Trinity Washington University School of Nursing in the nation’s capital spoke to Catholic News Service about their college experience during the pandemic and whether they had ever had any doubts about the profession they had chosen.
While most acknowledged it was initially more difficult to learn skills remotely, they said the pandemic eventually confirmed and solidified their desire to be nurses.
Ebony McLeod, a 44-year-old graduate, said the COVID-19 pandemic “intrigued my vocation even more.”
“I’ve been a nurse for 17 years, and so being able to live through a pandemic and learn nursing skills made me want to become a nurse even more,” she said, just hours before college. . May 12 pinning ceremony — a traditional event for nursing graduates.
Similarly, Golden-Paula Eromose Emokpaire, who is 21, said the pandemic, which began during her first year of nursing studies, has not changed her career choice.
“I had no doubts,” she said. “I knew from day one that I wanted to be a nurse.”
The pandemic confirmed her decision because even when people were dying of COVID-19 – the death rate now stands at 1 million deaths in the United States – she saw that nurses were “doing their best to give their patients the best possible care” and provided the holistic approach to care that she wants to do.
This determination was not always shared by all members of the group, who are all recipients of the university’s Joanne and William Conway Scholarship Program for high-achieving low-income students in the nursing program at the University. school.
“In all honesty, I had my doubts at some point during the pandemic,” said Keely Romero, a 21-year-old graduate who said she had no experience in the medical profession and was not knew no one – outside of school – was a nurse.
“For me, it was like a trial by fire,” she said, but as she learned more about what the job entailed and read about the people who did the job, she became more interested and “wanted to be a part of it”.
Melissa Rivas, 29, also noted the challenge, saying, “Every day was kind of like, I don’t know if I can do this. And for me, it felt like every week I had to skip that week.
She said other students in the program were also connected to this struggle, which was felt in online learning to work on the simulation mannequin that mimics various ailments and then working with patients in hospital training sessions. students who started last spring.
Adonis Mokom, 23, said it was hard to get used to online learning as she is “not a virtual learner”, but she kept the feeling she had since she was little girl that she wanted to be a nurse.
“The pandemic has made me realize that ‘hey, I have strength in me,'” she said, adding that she also counts on the support of her friends and family.
She passed the exams by finding better ways to study and creating about 100 sheets to quiz herself.
A bigger hurdle, she said, was during first clinical or hospital training, where she said many patients they saw on day one were basically OK during the day and then a few hours later. , they tested positive for COVID-19 so she and the other students also needed to be tested.
Mokom’s longtime desire to get into nursing stems from seeing so many of his family members with chronic or long-term illnesses that weren’t identified at the outset.
Emokpaire also went the nursing route because of what her friends and family members went through in Nigeria, where she grew up. As she said, people have lost their lives because of a health care system that “wasn’t that good”.
After moving to the United States, her focus shifted to racial disparities in health care where she hopes to make a difference.
Karina Nolasco, 22, also wants to reach out not only with medical skills. She said studying for her nursing degree during the pandemic has brought out a resilience in her that she didn’t realize she had and which she also credits those around her for getting her through.
Likewise, she wants to help others however she can, which she once witnessed on a small scale during her hospital training when she felt “able to be a voice” for women, immigrants and Hispanics.
This group of students, graduating on May 20, are among 30 nursing graduates from Trinity this year.
During their pinning ceremony, Patricia McGuire, President of Trinity, told them, “You have chosen a career that will literally change the lives of so many people. We are very proud of you.”
And for these six, their careers will begin soon after they put away their caps and smocks with jobs starting this summer at local hospitals where they will work in intensive care units and surgical and cardiac care.
They are confident that their work will continue if the pandemic abates or continues or with any other change.
As McLeod said, “I wanted to become a nurse because I realized that no matter what happens in the world, a nurse will always be needed. It doesn’t matter if the economy is up, if the economy is down, who’s in charge, who’s not in charge. A nurse will always be needed.