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SAU nursing students during COVID-19

SAU nurses during COVID-19

Like all healthcare workers, the St. Ambrose University nursing majors have seen the impact of the pandemic first hand during their clinicals.

Claire Johnson and Julia Hanacek are both senior nursing students at St. Ambrose University.

“I’ve always wanted to go into nursing the majority of my life,” Johnson said. “I’ve grown up around a lot of nurses and I just find the work that nurses do so impactful and amazing. I also have an innate drive to help others and I really think that nursing embodies that so well.”

Student nurse, Claire. Photo courtesy of Johnson.
Student nurse, Claire. Photo courtesy of Johnson.

“I chose to be a nurse because as I was growing up my grandparents spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital,” Hanacek said. “While they were spending time in the hospital they got taken care of by a lot of really good nurses that not only helped them but also helped my family go through tough situations. Because of that help that I saw nurses give to them, I wanted to do that in someone else’s life and be able to help them and their families in that way.”

Student nurse, Julia. Photo courtesy of Hanacek.
Student nurse, Julia. Photo courtesy of Hanacek.

Despite knowing that their path to becoming nurses would be challenging, neither of them could have predicted that their senior year of college would entail a global health crisis.

Johnson and Hanacek, along with their classmates, have had to learn how to work in healthcare during a pandemic. 

“Clinicals look a lot different than they have in the past,” Johnson said. “We of course have to wear masks and face shields and things like that in order to decrease our risk of transmission and getting the coronavirus.”

“Patients will come in and once they get a negative COVID test they will go up to the floor and we can take care of them like regular patients,” Hanacek said. 

Student nurse, Claire, at her clinicals. Photo courtesy of Johnson.
Student nurse, Claire, at her clinicals. Photo courtesy of Johnson.
Student nurse, Julia, at her clinicals. Photo courtesy of Hanacek.
Student nurse, Julia, at her clinicals. Photo courtesy of Hanacek.

“We are of course very cautious and we love being in person this semester and getting that hands-on experience,” Johnson said. “It is very challenging and very different, but we are so grateful that we get to be here in person after last spring.”

Despite the many changes students have had to adjust to, they have also seen a lot of innovation and community as a result of the pandemic.  

“Patients do rely a lot on our facial expressions when we are caring for them,” Johnson said. “They love to see someone who has a nice, calm, smiling appearance that’s caring for them that day and since our mouths are typically covered now it’s really hard for patients to feel like they’re able to talk to someone who appears trusting, and appears kind.”

Johnson continued, “A lot of the nurses have attached a printed picture of themselves to their name badges just so the patients can see what their nurse looks like without a mask on so they can kind of get a full picture of who’s taking care of them, who is doing everything they possibly can to aid in their healing experience. I think that’s really interesting and very cool that healthcare professionals still are wanting to form those detailed and developmental relationships with their patients.”

Hanacek echoed similar thoughts on a sense of community despite the circumstances.

“This pandemic has brought out a sense of community and love and care for one another that we haven’t maybe seen recently in these past years,” Hanacek said. “Although this pandemic isn’t ideal and it’s not a good situation for anyone, it does bring us together as a community a little bit better because we are all going through this thing that is hard on us physically and mentally. We’re going to get through it together.”

Johnson and Hanacek both graduate in May 2021.

Johnson plans on staying in the Quad City area, where she is originally from. She hopes to work in the emergency department or a behavioral health facility because of the fast-paced environments.

“I’m so thankful for all the opportunities that Ambrose has given me being a part of the nursing program,” Johnson said. “Also being so incredibly close with all of the professors, classmates, and cohorts. I am just so blessed I have been given the opportunity to be a nursing student here at Ambrose.”

SAU nursing students prior to COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Johnson.

Hanacek plans on either staying in the Quad City area or returning back to her hometown area and potentially working on the surgical floor as a nurse. 

Despite the unforeseen circumstances, these nursing bees are grateful to be giving back as healthcare workers.

“Keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, keep social distancing and stay safe,” Hanacek said. “We can only get through this pandemic together.”