In a time when the need for nurses is higher than ever, many schools are being forced to temporarily lighten their clinical requirements for nurses.
Large universities across the country have canceled their clinical rotations, even in states where the virus hasn't seen as much growth compared to others. While much of the on-site training for nurses has been cancelled in Ohio, schools are making some exceptions to allow students to continue internships and other medical experience.
To keep up with the unprecedented need for nurses amidst an uncertain medical future due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Ohio Board of Nurses is also loosening requirements. Graduates are now able to temporarily forgo the licensing exam and receive a license that will expire 90 days after the end of the virus, or December 1st; a “baptism by fire" as the Toledo Blade called it. Now, more than ever, Otterbein nursing students are savoring the last of their schooling before they officially enter the work force.
Otterbein junior nursing major Alessandra Cunningham has seen the difficulties of adjusting to online case studies as an alternative to on-site training. Cunningham was set for her clinical training this semester at Children’s Hospital, before finding out that her pediatric experience would be moved out of the hospital and on to her laptop. Her instructors have implemented a new online program called SimChart to replace hands-on experience with case studies.
“It’s just difficult because it’s brand new," Cunningham said. "This is our first experience with SimChart, but we are all adjusting. I think our professors are doing their best to get us thinking.”
Where Cunningham would have spent 12 hours weekly at Children’s, she now only spends about four hours weekly online engaging in this critical thought. This leaves a bit more time on her hands, but she also spends 12 hours weekly as a lab tech at Riverside Hospital.
Amidst the coronavirus outbreak, the hospital has been forced to cancel elective surgeries. Cunningham has not seen COVID-19 patients on her floor yet, but says they are next to start getting patients as need be if cases continue to increase. Although nervous for what the future may hold, Cunningham views this unique experience as invaluable for a nurse. “I may be losing some in-person pediatric experience, but I still have plenty of opportunity as an Otterbein student to learn and grow right now, and for that I am thankful," said Cunningham.
Senior nursing major Ally Golden is struggling with similar obstacles that Cunningham is facing in the midst of the outbreak. Golden also had her clinical cancelled, and her required 224 hours has been waived and replaced with weekly four hour online clinical makeup assignments. Golden is pleased to be receiving COVID-19 cross-training mixed in with these assignments, but she is still disappointed in not being able to apply all the knowledge she’s gained at Otterbein. Being a senior, her impact was a bit more personal.
Otterbein has decided to postpone commencement ceremonies for the time being. Golden shares the sentiment of many graduating seniors: “as you’ve worked so hard for four years, it hurts a little bit to not be able to celebrate with your friends and family as you’ve always pictured it.” Golden will still be graduating this spring and has an exciting future. Otterbein degree in hand, she will be starting in the workforce as an RN in July.
Golden, a Cincinnati native, was allowed to continue living on campus in order to maintain her role as a patient support assistant at Riverside Hospital. Her biggest concern regarding the current outbreak is the possibility of infecting those that she lives with.
The uncertainty of the times can certainly cause a lot of anxieties, but Golden points to the trending hastags #InThisTogether and #InThisTogetherOhio as very helpful as we move forward. Although nurses are under great pressure to perform now more than ever, Golden sees the light at the end of the tunnel.