How COVID-19 has affected UNF nursing students

Sarah Glenn, Contributing Writer

As COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly, the University of North Florida has moved entirely to online learning. For some more hands on majors, this has been a more challenging transition.

The Brooks School of Nursing has adapted their curriculum to fit remote learning in a time when training health care workers is more important than ever. Nursing majors now have online simulations, videos and case studies as a part of their classes. They are no longer able to complete their clinicals as hospitals have moved to licensed professionals in response to the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). This transition has left students in very different stages of their learning. 

“Personally I was able to complete almost all of my clinical rotations for the semester except for one day,” said Karina Sihite, a third-semester traditional nursing student at UNF. “However, I know many of my classmates within my cohort were not as lucky and missed more clinical days than I did. There was even a portion that did not get to do their OB rotation at all.” 

Even with the stay at home order, students are trying to find ways to help the community. The Student Nurses Association is organizing help for medical professionals. They are considering child care options for working nurses and delivering food to staff. UNF has also donated their unused PPE.

The reality of the pandemic hasn’t deterred any nursing students from finishing their degree. The college has not had any student leave the program or change majors. In fact, Sihite feels even more driven to enter the medical field.

“One of the key things they always tell us in nursing school is to be flexible and adaptable. I personally have felt more motivated to become a nurse because it’s times like these that show just how crucial healthcare workers are.”

Students likely won’t be able to take their licensure exams because the testing sights are closed. This will delay them from becoming licensed nurses and therefore getting a job. However, there has been some discussion around allowing students to be hired on a provisional basis. 

Some recently graduated UNF nursing students are working on the front lines through the COVID-19 outbreak. Kelsey, an ICU nurse in New York City, shared her story in an email to her former instructor, Dr. Cynthia Cummings.

I wish I could paint a picture of what I’m seeing on my unit today…. I see older patients shaking from nerves, which doesn’t help with their shortness of breath. I hear cries and grunts from labored breathing. I smell diarrhea. So much diarrhea…I feel nothing but heat on my face from the masks, gowns, and goggles…I speak to family members, who are calling non stop because they can’t be with their loved ones at this time.”

UNF’s school of nursing does prepare students with disaster training, said Cummings, instructor and Interim Director for the School of Nursing. They learn about ventilators, infection control practices and all ICU medications. 

“I do worry about my students and hope that we have done everything to well train them. I hope that they are able to be safe and effectively care for their patients,” said Cummings. “I also hope they have a good support system to deal with the stress and moral decisions that they may need to make. This pandemic is definitely the most stressful time that any nurse has experienced. We have to be prepared to work in an intense, chaotic environment.”


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