Nursing in a Pandemic

On Sept. 10 and 17, the Davis & Henley College of Nursing (DHCON) held their annual Blessing of the Hands/White Coat Ceremony for juniors and seniors at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit that had previously been put on pause last semester on account of Covid-19.

However, due to improving conditions on campus this semester, seniors were able to attend the ceremony that is typically held during their junior year.

“The pandemic started when I was a sophomore, so we missed out on Blessings of the Hands as a junior, which was a bummer,” said senior Daria Munia. “But this year, we had our hands blessed by the nursing faculty, and we were also given our white coats.”

While the actual ceremony has remained the same for years, the meaning behind it has since been altered due to Covid.

“One of the reverends had a significant health event, and she said it so beautifully: ‘I was scared, and someone held my hand when I was fading away and losing consciousness, and when I woke up, the first thing I felt was the nurse’s hand in mine encouraging me to come back,’” said Dr. Karen Daley, Dean of DHCON for Healthcare Education. “Usually, a handshake or a warm hug are wonderful things, but during Covid, they kind of became a threat. We had to wash them, we had to not touch, and they became something dangerous that could transfer the virus, so the blessing has taken on a whole other meaning this year.”

Those within the healthcare field have faced many difficulties during the ongoing fourth wave of the pandemic, especially nurses.

According to the Associated Press, “[As a result of the ongoing crisis for the nursing workforce and burnout for many nurses,] many are quitting their jobs in substantial numbers all across the country, with 62% of hospitals reporting a nurse vacancy rate higher than 7.5%.”

In combination with the high level of education expected of many nursing students, Covid has made mental health for nursing students a priority for the university.

“I think that when you’re in a very high demand program like nursing and anxiety levels are already high about succeeding, and then you overlay a pandemic that makes people feel very insecure and unsafe on top of all that, you have to give students a lot of grace,” said Daly.

Despite this, some students are still not deterred from their goals.

“As someone who’s sister handled the brute of the pandemic, she has said to me that it is a slap in the face after working the front lines and seeing people refuse a vaccine which is saving lives,” said sophomore Christopher Torres. “However, I don’t think it has changed my outlook on nursing. If anything, it has made me jump into the field more than ever.”

Although the Covid outbreak has somewhat changed the nursing field, the very basis and ethics of nursing remain the same and have even been strengthened due to the hardships.

“I think in some ways, the pandemic has changed us for the better,” said Daly. “We became so much more committed to the nursing profession because we could see how nurses lead in the community, how they lead in the hospital, and we were able to cope and help people around us. I’m just so proud.”

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