As an assistant professor of nursing at The University of Texas at El Paso, I live and serve the U.S. – Mexico Border region.
My colleagues and I were tasked with identifying creative solutions to help train the next generation of healthcare professionals who are in their final semester of nursing before graduation.
As healthcare facilities in the region deployed responses for the ensuing pandemic, the local healthcare system began to experience the taxing effects of COVID-19. An initial response was to limit exposure to COVID-19 and remove students from clinical settings. However, healthcare systems also limited the learning experiences, creating a shortage of clinical sites for students who need clinical practice hours for nursing licensure programs. Faculty members had to identify opportunities for students to complete their clinical hours without straining local community agencies.
Local healthcare agencies deployed COVID-19 mitigating measures to decrease the community spreading the virus and healthcare providers’ exposure to the virus.
Local facilities began screening for symptoms of COVID-19 for anyone entering their facilities. This provided a window of opportunity for students to use their skills and assist in screening procedures. It was a challenge to develop creative solutions with local community partners for our students to gain their experience and complete their hours to graduate.
Students were asked to rise to the challenge. The response by health officials to open practice environments and encourage new healthcare professionals during the pandemic has been a learning experience for everyone.
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, students are discouraged as they face reality that they were graduating and entering the workforce during this time. We should encourage students to reach out to us so we can address their personal safety concerns, while promoting our professional responsibility as healthcare providers. Students need reassurance and options to move forward.
I am proud of my students in the wake of the pandemic. Despite their concerns and fears, students advanced the profession through courage and resiliency.
As we continue to forge forward during the critical times of the pandemic, I encourage colleagues across healthcare professions to consider non-traditional settings for educational purposes. Using local healthcare facilities as resources can help guide your educational experiences for students and thus decrease the strain on local healthcare systems.
During this pandemic, we are all challenged. However, it’s up to us to continue motivating and encouraging one another to improve our overall response to adversity
Jacob Martinez, PhD, RN
School of Nursing
The University of Texas at El Paso