Despite the ongoing pandemic, some Loyola nursing students are still working in hospitals this semester.
But some students said despite the risk, they aren’t worried about contracting COVID-19 due to the protocol put in place by Loyola’s Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing.
A key component of a nursing student’s education is the clinical experience, in which students spend time in real-world health care settings — such as hospitals — under direct supervision.
Madelyn Taylor, a senior nursing student, said she has two clinical days per week, but only one day is in-person at the Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois.
“I feel safe right now considering the instructions from the School of Nursing and then the protocol from the hospital I’m located at,” Taylor said.
Each hospital has its own “checklist” to ensure students are safe — such as wearing personal protective equipment which includes goggles and surgical masks — said Dr. Jorgia Connor, assistant dean for Loyola’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.
Taylor said during her clinicals at Loyola’s medical center, for example, she’s “expected to have a surgical mask on and get screened before stepping on the floor.”
Students’ real-world healthcare experiences are also being supplemented by synchronous, virtual classes, Connor said.
Taylor said while she spends one of her clinical days at Loyola’s medical center in Maywood, she has an online clinical experience on the other day.
Taylor said she learns about “very specific” patient scenarios during her virtual clinical, but she looks forward to her days at the hospital because being a nursing major requires “very hands-on learning experiences.” But she said she’s not worried about contracting the coronavirus because students aren’t allowed to come in contact with COVID-19 patients.
“Something that I’ve really admired about all the clinical instructors so far that I’ve had is … in no way do they want us to feel like we’re going to gain less than other students by having a virtual experience,” Taylor said.
Connor also said the School of Nursing has a required COVID-19 learning module which students can access from their Sakai account. The module is meant to help students better understand COVID-19, including how it’s transmitted, how to properly use protective equipment and what to do if exposed to the coronavirus.
“This is a profession that needs to be able to balance their experience and their safety,” Connor said. “We really are, I think, doing that well in light of the circumstances.”
Maja Djenadic, a junior nursing student, said she was worried in light of the pandemic, especially since this is her first year performing clinicals, but after her first day she said Loyola’s medical center has taken precautions that have made her feel more at ease.
“Doing clinicals during the pandemic is really unique and a big learning experience,” Djenadic, 20, said. “After learning about COVID-19, I’ve definitely grasped methods on infection control and preventing hospital-acquired infections, with or without a pandemic.”
Djenadic said she’s also grateful for the opportunity to continue in-person clinicals despite the pandemic, especially since the university’s lab courses last semester were cut short when students were sent home in March as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Many nursing students were unable to learn the necessary skills they needed for hands-on experience.
“Being in clinicals has made me feel a bit behind,” Djenadic said in regards to classes being cut short. “But we’re lucky enough to go now since we didn’t think we would have been able to at first.”