Salem Nursing Faculty Member Teaching, Caring during Pandemic
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced its way into our lives, everything changed. At Kent State, faculty members began delivering lessons remotely and students began learning in online classrooms. All student services became remote/online.
Learning to deliver higher education with this format was challenging enough for most. For Sarah Pierce-Brown, that was only one part of her life that was about to turn upside down.
Pierce-Brown is a member of the nursing faculty on the Salem Campus, but she also works as a nurse in the surgical/trauma intensive care unit at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Youngstown. She also floats when there is a need in other intensive care units, such as the medical intensive care unit, the cardiothoracic unit and the recovery room.
Now, more than ever, she feels that her skills and knowledge are helping her navigate the twists and turns of patient care during this critical time and, at the same time, she is embracing the challenges so that she can help prepare her students for similar situations.
“COVID-19 has really impacted both of my jobs, as a nursing educator and bedside nurse,” Pierce-Brown noted. “…Every week I meet with my current students and I tell them they are doing the right thing by staying home and practicing social distancing. It’s helping us on the frontlines by reducing the number of transmissions. I hope my students will see the difference nurses are making in our community and in the world. I also hope that my students will be able to see that nurses cannot do this alone. Every health care discipline has a crucial part. We are all working together as a team, helping to save lives.”
A Lisbon resident, Pierce-Brown graduated with a Bachelor’s in Science Nursing from Kent State Salem in 2012 and earned a master’s in nursing education from Kent State in 2017. She began teaching as an adjunct on the Salem Campus in 2014 and became a fulltime faculty member in 2017.
She teaches nursing of the critically ill and is the clinical instructor for the course, while also teaching clinicals for the sophomore and junior level courses. “An exciting aspect of my position at the Salem Campus is that I also serve as the lab coordinator for our skills and simulation labs. In addition, I function as the clinical liaison between Kent Salem and Mercy Hospital.”
On top of that, she also teaches staff, students and other faculty Stop the Bleed, part of a national campaign to educate community members to learn life-saving techniques in cases of massive bleeding.
“As an educator, I typically meet with students for skills testing, help with content and I love taking students to the Medical Intensive Care unit for clinical. Unfortunately, I am not able to do meet with my students physically, so I meet my students virtually. Also, since we are not able to attend clinical, I have to get creative and find experiences through virtual learning that meet my course objectives,” she explained. “I’ve been able to share my own experiences in caring for patients in the ICU. These stories really help the students make connections to disease processes and treatments and gives them insight to a nurse’s role in the ICU setting.”
Pierce-Brown has worked at St. Elizabeth for seven years. As a PRN (part-time) nurse now, she can “float” to other departments and ICU’s, giving her a broad perspective of the seriousness of this current situation.
“From a bedside nurse’s perspective, this has really opened my eyes to the things I took for granted in my job. I am fortunate that when I go to work, I have personal protective equipment, but I know there is a large shortage within our nation,” she said. “As nurses working together, we must have more understanding and patience with each other. I love working where I do, and I continue to work there because we have always worked as a cohesive team to care for our patients. The pandemic has really made our network of nurses bond and support each other more than ever. We have also developed a deeper appreciation for each person in our facility and every department within our hospital system. … I feel very fortunate to work as a critical care nurse for the last seven years.”
Pierce-Brown credits her education at Kent State Salem for helping her become the nurse she is today, noting that the high standards for success on campus definitely helped her rise above the challenges of the profession.
“My experiences in nursing school taught me to work hard and helped me decide what kind of nurse I wanted to be. As a faculty member, I have found a sense of community within my campus and the students that attend our campus.
“I am proud that I can serve my community in two different capacities. As an educator, I am a part of a team that helps prepare our students to become successful and go on to serve the community members where they practice,” she continued. “As a nurse working the bedside, I can provide expertise knowledge and support/comfort for my patients and families through their illness and recovery. I am grateful to Kent State University for the experiences and opportunities that have led me to a career and profession that I love being a part of.”
Pierce-Brown appreciates being strongly connected to the communities around her, on and off campus. The network of providers makes a big difference and lessons are learned every day.
“Public health and education are so important and not enough value is placed on it,” she said. “It’s important, as a community, for us to prepare for disasters and outbreaks. I am proud of my community and feel that we are doing our best to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of COVID-19. Even with the pandemic going on, there are patients who still need medical attention for emergencies. I can’t imagine how it feels to be a patient in the hospital at this time. It is so important for us to show compassion and make that connection with our patients.”
COVID-19 not only impacts Pierce-Brown’s professional life, but is taking an emotional toll on her, personally, as well.
“This really has impacted my life,” she shared. “My husband has survived cancer and his mother is currently going through cancer treatment for the second time in her life. Being quarantined is something that he would have never thought he would have to do again in his life. As a provider at the bedside, there is the fear that I would become sick or, even worse, get my husband sick. I know that I could be a potential carrier for COVID-19 so I am following the CDC guidelines and not visiting with family and friends, especially for those who are immunocompromised.
“Even though I am sure everyone is getting a little 'stir crazy,’ I encourage everyone to continue practicing the CDC guidelines for social distancing and stay home. I am proud of all our graduates making a difference during this difficult time. Our students continue to show resilience and dedication. We are all in this together.”
Cutline A: RN Sarah Pierce-Brown, a member of the nursing faculty at Kent State Salem, at work at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Youngstown.
Cutline B: Sarah Pierce-Brown (center) with BSN students from the Salem Campus during a clinical rotation at St. Elizabeth Hospital. The students include (from left) Sam Telshaw, Nicole Stevens, Haley McIlvain, Pavin Heath and Mohamed Abouamra.