USF nursing students adjust to virtual classes, are eager to help treat COVID-19

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Nursing students are in a unique position of having to prepare for a career of healthcare without being in the hospitals after COVID-19 closes schools.

The school year started off normal for nursing students at the University of Saint Francis but their last semester has been anything but normal, as the school joined others across the country in shutting down to slow any potential spread of the new coronavirus.

“We went from being in the hospitals learning and just preparing to graduate to kind of halted here,” said senior nursing student Ashley Gerber. “We’re at home, so everything’s been moved online so that’s different.”

This presents a challenge because a critical part of their education are clinicals, a lab class where students have supervised interactions with patients inside the hospitals.

“The clinical instructor we have now has made these case studies, almost,” said senior nursing student Benjamin Kammerer. “She has these videos that go through the information, the content that we normally would go through and then periodically have questions to kind of make sure we’re understanding the content from a clinical, practical situation rather than a textbook, test-based kind of class.”

Kammerer said he is lucky in that, as a senior, he already has gotten through most of the schooling he needs to in order to be prepared. Working part-time at a local hospital has also given him an up-close look at how hospitals are responding to COVID-19 patients.

Although information is almost constantly developing with COVID-19, the students said they find themselves more invigorated than ever to get their careers started.

“I don’ feel nervous,” said Gerber. “I think many of us feel stuck like we want to help.”

“I think that this is throwing so much more passion into the fire that I have for nursing,” said senior nursing student Alex Koenemann. “We don’t have graduation, we don’t have our nursing pinning ceremony. It does really stink that we’re not allowed to have that honors but to be able to step into that role is the biggest honor that I think that I could have.”

Both Kammerer and Koenemann have been working part-time for the Lutheran Health Network but before they can transition to a full-time career, there is one more hurdle they have to jump and as of now it is unclear just when they will be able to do it.

“I’m wondering, hey I’m a senior, I graduate in four weeks, am I going to be able to take boards?” said Koenemann. “Because in order to take a board exam you got to sit in a classroom with other people and right now we can’t even do that just because of the high severity of this illness so that is definitely nerve-wracking for me.”

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing has asked schools to be flexible when it comes to their graduating students. According to Koenemann, his instructors said Indiana is looking at shortening the exam so that they can get through more people in one day and get more nurses into our hospitals.

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