Nursing students answer the call even after coronavirus concerns

Bryan Crist has always been drawn back to nursing.

His dad was a combat medic and nurse.  His stepmom is a trauma nurse here in Cheyenne. He’s done other things. He worked as a stove and fireplace installer and repairman. He spent nine years as a welder and mechanic. But he, like his parents, kept coming back to nursing. 

 This pandemic has not made him want to change his career path. Crist is a 40-year- old third-semester student studying for his associates degree in nursing at LCCC.

“This isn’t something that you just decide to do,” Crist said. “This is a calling. You were called to be a nurse.”

He believes that because of all that you have to do to get in the program that if you don’t want to be a nurse, you won’t make it past the first couple semesters.

“You have to put your heart and soul into this,” he said.

A virus, therefore, won’t scare him, and neither will the nursing program going online after the extended spring break this semester. He believes he’s more of a brick and mortar type student and is not so comfortable being online, but he is going to make it work. 

Crist likes helping. He likes being the hand in the dark. He tells his patients, “It’s okay. I got this. I got you, I’ll do what it takes. You get better, I got the rest of this.”

Something Crist does miss is the classroom. He misses the immediate feedback he used to receive from the instructors and peers. They do have some Zoom meetings, but mostly He’s now learning from powerpoints and lectures. 

“What the students need to get are the clinical experiences that are normally done in a live healthcare setting,” said Caitlin MacKenna, the nursing director.

That’s hard to do in a pandemic. Now they are using virtual clinics. A virtual clinic looks like gaming with an avatar, where the student can do assessments, diagnose and read charts from their computers.

One upside of this pandemic, MacKenna said, is she became aware of virtual clinics that are available that she didn’t know about. Another positive piece is those virtual clinics offered free or low-priced products for the remainder of the semester so the school was able to save money. By taking these measures, LCCC will graduate 35 students on time. 

Haley Simpson is a 24-year-old, second-semester nursing student who lives in Colorado.

The pandemic reinforced her decision to be a nurse, not scared her away.

Being an online student has affected her in that she’s more autonomous and being able to learn at her own pace, but has missed the connection with her nursing cohort. Simpson says having clinical experiences canceled this semester was unfortunate but doesn’t feel that it will have a negative impact on the care she provides to her patients once she’s working in the field. She believes nursing care is fundamentally a mindset and a demeanor of prioritizing your patient’s comfort and well-being; the skills come with practice and can be honed during professional practice. 

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