One the frontline: UD’s nursing students

To be an nursing student during a pandemic has unexpected challenges — and just as…

To be an nursing student during a pandemic has unexpected challenges — and just as many rewards.

Ashton Hanna started her first nursing clinical rotation in the middle of a global pandemic.

“Going into a hospital setting in full PPE was not what I expected,” the sophomore conceded after her first week at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital. “Constantly wearing face shields and masks and having to wear gloves the moment you step into a patient’s room until the moment you leave can be frustrating, but I understand the precautions.

“As nurses we have to learn to be flexible.”

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India Richardson

India Richardson, a sophomore who started her first clinical rotation at the same inpatient rehabilitation hospital, spoke philosophically: “Every nursing generation will go through something. For my nursing instructor, it was the AIDS epidemic.”

Throughout history nurses have found themselves on the frontline during the world’s most infectious outbreaks — from the 1918 influenza pandemic to the  H1N1 Swine Flu, Ebola, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

That’s why Tonya Breymier, nursing program director and clinical professor, created a one-credit-hour seminar that helps nursing students build their resilience and coping skills.

“We’re working on resiliency and grit, skills that are particularly necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“There’s stress and anxiety when you first start a nursing program. A lot is thrown at you, and it can be like hitting a brick wall. We’re working on resiliency and grit, skills that are particularly necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Breymier, noting that this fall’s clinical experience started a week late after a mandatory quarantine.

In partnership with Sinclair Community College, UD launched the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree last fall with 16 students. The first cohort began their studies at UD, are now dually enrolled at both schools, and will finish their degrees back on UD’s campus. They will sit for their National Council Licensure Examination after their third year, allowing them to work as licensed registered nurses while completing the program.

The program has quickly gained popularity — spurred, in part, by a national nursing shortage. This fall, more than 420 applicants competed for 25 seats, according to Breymier.

“These students want to give back to their communities and help with the need for nurses,” she said. “They’re very motivated, knowing they can go make a difference right away.”

Richardson said she chose nursing after her grandmother, now in remission, was diagnosed with lung cancer while she was a student at the Dayton Early College Academy. “I want to specialize in oncology because one day I want to contribute to a cure.”

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Ashton Hanna

Hanna, too, is focused on helping people recover and live healthy lives. “Yes, we put our lives on the line for others, but if I can save one life, inspire one patient or my eyes be opened to a world I could not understand or see before, then I think it is worth it,” she said.

During her first week at the hospital, she spotted a nurse struggling to help three patients in wheelchairs with walkers get in the elevator to travel to their therapy sessions.

“My partner and I instantly went to help,” she recalled. “One patient looked up to me and said, ‘Thank you from the bottom of my heart.’

“No matter the risk, there will always be a reward.”

“This is the exact moment I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. No matter the risk, there will always be a reward of heartwarming experiences like these.”