June 26, 2020
Medical professionals face daunting challenges as COVID-19 continues, but the spirit driving future careers in the field remains strong among students starting Shawnee State University’s nursing program.
Katie Fisher is a 2020 graduate of Minford High School enrolled in SSU’s Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) two-year program this fall. Despite the added pressure of a global pandemic, she was inspired as a child seeing nurses in action.
“I’ve grown up going to hospitals often,” she explained. Katie has juvenile psoriatic arthritis and from her home in the hills of rural southern Ohio she has frequented Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus to help manage her condition. What she has seen and learned motivated her to a career in nursing.
“All the nurses are always so nice and understanding. I just want to be able to do that and make a patient’s stay more comfortable, help them feel welcome while getting the treatment and care they need.”
Dr. Catherine Bailey, nursing professor, said Shawnee’s nursing program includes several options for aspiring medical professionals. The ADN program Katie is pursuing normally takes four semesters.
An LPN-ADN program provides an opportunity for licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to receive advanced placement into the second semester of the ADN courses of study, pending completion of pre-nursing coursework, Bailey said.
The BSN program awards the four-year Bachelor of Nursing degree. Many students complete their two-year ADN and continue the additional two years for the RN-BSN.
In Katie’s case, inspiration toward nursing was always close to home. In addition to an older sister who also has a chronic condition, Katie’s mother, Jenny, has been a nurse for more than 20 years at Southern Ohio Medical Center.
“I think Katie, herself, can have some empathy for patients,” Jenny said. “She’s had enough things to deal with and has a special needs sister.”
Jenny complimented SSU’s College Credit Plus program, which allowed Katie to earn 30 credit hours while still in high school and get a head start on her degree. She said Katie also found friends and support in the Shawnee Delight Ministry, a platform where college women are able to connect and network in a Christian-themed environment.
But with the challenges of COVID-19, isolation and social distancing, some parents may have a higher anxiety about their children pursuing medical careers and caring for patients with highly communicable illnesses. Jenny says this is part of accepting a career in nursing and personal protection is always a daily core component of the work nurses do.
Even with her own daughter’s underlying health condition and suppressed immune system, she says trust is the key.
“I would say to parents you will have to trust when your children are working, they will take the precautions as directed,” she said. “You change your clothes and wash them. You wear the right protection. You will have to trust that they’ll be taught the right thing to do.”
Jenny pointed out she would be much more anxious if her daughter was working in one of the current “hot spots” where travel, tourism and increased cases of COVID-19 are prevalent, and she’s grateful Katie is studying in rural southern Ohio.
The professional experience is still readily available in the region, as SSU partners with area hospitals and other facilities to help students meet their required student clinical work in real care settings.
Jenny added that SSU’s program’s use of new technologies for many parts of the program, including online connections and distance learning, are also a plus.
Bailey explained Shawnee developed and enhanced new teaching and learning methods for nursing students as COVID-19 lockdowns arose in the spring, including some virtual learning and related training.
“We already had a lot of experience in online instruction in nursing,” Bailey said. “We developed smaller online group meetings, we worked both live on schedule and at individualized paces, and we used virtual patient clinical training. You have to learn to be flexible, just as we do in all aspects of nursing and patient care.”
“By nature, people who are interested in nursing as a profession are caregivers and that’s part of their makeup,” Bailey said, adding that while COVID-19 puts more pressure on the current situation, there are logical steps to help reduce risk.
“We also have to care of ourselves, of course, and nurses have that mindset to follow policy procedures. This includes using the right personal protective equipment, isolation techniques, and related safety measures as needed. These are all practices that are based on good clinical research.”