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Becoming a Nurse in a Pandemic: What Starting FSU’s Nursing Program Looks Like Now

With the rise of coronavirus sweeping through the United States, education has been a hot topic of debate. The discussion of whether classes should be in person or online has been increasingly important as the school year starts. While most of us may have online classes, the nursing majors at FSU do not. Medicine is in high demand right now and, with programs like this, is more hands-on now than ever. With that in mind, whenever my friend/roommate Maggie Hays and I talk about our days, she always talks about how the program is handling everything. I always find our conversations interesting, and since it seems timely, I figured I would bring our conversation to Her Campus.

Her Campus: What made you want to study to become a nurse?

Maggie Hays: I’ve always been interested in science, but when my grandfather got sick a few years back, I got to experience the intimacy of caring for another person both physically and emotionally. I spent a year being his caretaker before he passed and I treasure those memories. I consider it an honor to impact anyone positively, and I think I can do that best as a nurse.

HC: Is this your first year in the program? How do you like it so far?

MH: This is my first year! Actually, this is my first semester, so I’m very new to it. It already feels like we’ve hit the ground running. Everything is so interesting, it’s inspiring. I look forward to studying and going to classes more than I ever have before. It’s so rewarding to reach a place that I wasn’t always sure I would get to.

HC: What was the application process like?

MH: The application process was intense. I would say that last year was one of the toughest years of my life, and the intensity of the application process definitely played a big role in that. Nursing is a limited program – only 72 people were accepted this semester out of over 200 applicants. The application itself was very demanding; it had a general application portion, an essay and an interview process. For me, the scariest part of the whole process was the interview. I’m so glad that I’m done with all of it.

HC: How did you feel going into the program knowing coronavirus was going to severely impact the quality of your education?

MH: Honestly, I was very apprehensive, mostly because I would miss out on all the important experiences that “normal” nursing students have. Despite that initial hesitancy, I understood how important pushing forward was for me. Taking a year off wasn’t really an option, so I just had to hope for the best.

HC: How has coronavirus affected your classes and the program as a whole? Are there any significant changes?

MH: We’re still in the process of figuring out how much COVID-19 will affect the program. One of the major changes is that we aren’t able to take classes together. Our lecture classes are now hybrids – we are separated into two separate sections. We also do a lot of Zoom classes. I have one day a week where all my classes are online, and I can tell that I’m going to have to work really hard to learn that material by myself. Our lab groups are also much smaller, and in lectures, we have assigned seats that are spread out, so the opportunity to meet and get to know everyone isn’t as present. The other major change is that there are no first semester clinical rotations that would normally take place in a nursing home. There is a lack of hands-on learning this semester; normally we would practice patient transfers on fellow students, and now we do them on heavy, stiff, creepy dummies to comply with social distancing. They’re so creepy! Even worse than you would think.

HC: Are there any benefits or downsides to COVID-19’s effect on the College of Nursing?

MH: I think there are definitely some benefits. For example, we are learning firsthand about PPE (personal protective equipment), droplet precautions (measures to avoid transmission/contraction of COVID-19), and other important skills. We are definitely embodying some of the key traits of nursing – critical thinking, flexibility and problem-solving. Even with the good aspects, the downfalls are really clear. There’s a lot less camaraderie due to social distancing. Missing clinical rotation is tough because we were all looking forward to it.

HC: Overall, how has your experience been so far?

MH: It’s been amazing. I feel like this learning environment is what all my hard work has culminated in. The professors and staff are all so accomplished and incredible and it is an honor to be taught by them. My fellow students are also great! All of them are such high achievers and it pushes me to work harder. By far it’s the best school experience that I have had.

HC: Do you feel like learning in a pandemic environment will add to your experience in the field? If so, how?

MH: I really think this experience will help me be more flexible and resilient in my career. It has made us all hyper-vigilant of our own cleanliness and germ spreading. I don’t think I’ll ever get over hand sanitizing 10x a day! All of the lessons I’m learning here will translate really well later on.

HC: Finally, what are you most looking forward to in the program?

MH: I’m really looking forward to clinical rotations so I can work with patients. Also, in our fourth semester, we get to do a professional clinical internship! I hope to be working with psych patients at that time—I’m just really looking forward to patient interaction!

A day in the life of a nursing student seems difficult, but ultimately rewarding for everyone involved. Now, out of respect for folks like Maggie who are dedicating their lives to helping others and keeping the population healthy, please wear a mask. Don't forget to wash your hands, and avoid groups of 10 or more people!

Olivia is a junior currently double majoring in Creative Writing and Classical Civilizations. Netflix is her soulmate and she is a true master of puns and other bad dad jokes.
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