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Saint Mary’s nursing, social work departments adapt amidst COVID-19

| Monday, September 7, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for healthcare workers across the world. Saint Mary’s nursing and social work departments have undergone a number of changes to keep students safe while equipping them with the skills and knowledge needed to care for people.

Saint Mary’s nursing science program requires students to complete clinicals or off-campus learning experiences in healthcare facilities such as local hospitals. While students are still allowed to do in-person clinicals, they are also required to abide by strict rules for their safety. 

“When in the clinical setting, nursing students are required to wear PPE as designated by the hospital or facility they are placed in,” said April Lane, nursing advisor and clinical coordinator. “Currently facilities are requiring masks and eye protection such as goggles and face shields.”

In addition, nursing students are not permitted to care for COVID-19 patients or work on a unit that has been designated as a COVID-19 unit. All students will also be required to provide documentation of receiving the influenza immunization to prevent the confusion of symptoms between the flu and COVID-19.

Nursing students are expected to follow the same safety guidelines as all other students such as social distancing, wearing masks, frequent handwashing, staying home if they are ill and completing daily COVID-19 self-assessments, Lane said.

“In addition to students who are quarantined or in isolation, a nursing student will be removed from a clinical experience if she fails to complete the COVID-19 self-assessment form or reports a temperature of greater than 100.4 degrees or a yes answer to any question on the self-assessment form,” she said.

The department of nursing sciences follows the same policies of the College in allowing nursing students to return to in-person classroom instruction and clinicals. Students must provide written documentation of negative results, Lane said.

“A student may return to in-person classes, clinical experiences or events if she has completed the required quarantine period and did not develop COVID-19 symptoms or has negative COVID-19 testing,” Lane said. “For students who have been isolated, she may return if she does not have an elevated temperature without fever-reducing medications for 24 hours and has an improvement in symptoms.” 

The training required of students in the department of social work and gerontology at Saint Mary’s has also changed, especially for seniors who are wrapping up their final training, senior Kat Esguerra said.

Double majoring in social work and psychology, Esguerra said many students are working remotely to practice social work.

“The senior class goes out to different agencies to practice social work and different ethics and values around it,” she said. “I’m in the AIDS ministry and am currently remotely working along with a case manager due to their office not being opened because of COVID-19.”

Some of Esguerra’s classmates are working for family social justice centers, schools and nursing homes. 

“They take the same protocols as Saint Mary’s, so they have to practice the same procedures, such as adhering to mask rules, doing temperature checks and some might even go to the extent of sanitizing everything once they return to campus,” Esguerra said. “If the agencies do not have their own policy pertaining to masks and temperature checks, then they automatically have to comply with Saint Mary’s COVID-19 policy.”

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