COVID-19 Provides Kent State Nursing Students Unparalleled Experience
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lexie Jones, Madison DeCato and other students in Kent State University’s College of Nursing have been employed in hospitals throughout Northeast Ohio, where they have honed their skills and observed healthcare professionals on the front lines. The emergence of COVID-19 has provided an unparalleled opportunity for Kent State’s nursing students to gain insight into the global pandemic in real time.
Jones, a Kent State sophomore, is only 19, but she has gained a wealth of experience working as a nursing assistant during the COVID-19 pandemic at Trumbull Regional Medical Center in Warren. Until COVID-19 hit, Jones’ core responsibilities included tasks such as assisting her patients with bathing, walking, moving, eating and toileting while at the same time building strong relationships with them. She has worked with various groups of patients in several departments, including critical care, intensive care, emergency, medical surgical, adult psychiatric and geriatric psychiatric.
However, since the onset of COVID-19, Jones’ work has been centered in the critical care unit of the hospital, where she has encountered extremely ill patients who have the coronavirus.
For the last few months, Jones has been balancing work and school and has not worked frequently enough to be given the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) required to safely enter the rooms of COVID-19 patients. Therefore, her main responsibilities have been to disinfect everything, stock PPE, provide more care to the patients who have tested negative and assist the nurses in any way possible by doing things like running supplies to them once they have already entered the room.
“I’ve been working mostly in the critical care unit recently where I have seen the more severe cases of COVID-19 that require more intense treatments such as ventilators, paralysis and flipping the patients onto their stomachs to promote lung expansion,” Jones said. “I have learned that COVID-19 is so challenging to understand because it is so new and that we are having a hard time controlling the spread and treating it because there is still so much to learn. I feel like I go to a new job every single day because the way we take care of patients and the measures we take to protect ourselves are constantly changing to match what is most recently being discovered about COVID-19.”
Jones decided to major in nursing her junior year of high school. She had already been interested in the medical field, but what made her choice clear was when her niece was diagnosed with leukemia. “I saw firsthand the impact the nurses had on her and how they helped my family during one of the most challenging times in our lives,” she said. “I do believe nursing is the perfect career choice for me as I get to do something that I love, which is help others.”
DeCato, 20, who works for the Surgical Hospital at Southwoods in Boardman, admits patients for elective surgeries and discharges patients from recovery after surgery. She has not worked directly with COVID-19 patients, but she has learned skills at Kent State that help mitigate the spread of the disease, such as practicing good hand hygiene and the importance of PPE.
“I am learning new information on a daily and weekly basis as new information is being put out every day,” DeCato said. “I have learned that this is a very virulent disease that is progressing daily.”
When DeCato enrolled in Kent State’s nursing program, her plan was to gain experience that could possibly translate into a career as a doctor. But after getting accepted to the program and working as a nurse’s aide, she realized that she would not change her profession for the world.
“I quickly realized how important the role of a nurse is and how tied they are to the experience and relationships of patients in the hospital,” she said. “So even though I didn't have the intentions of being a nurse forever in the beginning of college, I am so happy and grateful that I chose to do nursing and not biology, as I have full heartedly found my calling and would not want to be anything else besides a nurse.”
For more information about Kent State's College of Nursing, visit www.kent.edu/nursing.