Starting any new job can be a nerve-wracking experience but imagine becoming a nurse in the midst of a pandemic. That’s what Rebekah Tasker has done. After attending Fortis College’s Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio campus, Tasker graduated in September 2020 with an associate degree in nursing. The final seven months of her program were impacted by COVID-19.
“When I started my clinicals at the beginning of the year, everything was normal,” says Tasker. “Right at the end of the term, things started to shut down. We made it through the last week, but we had to transition to virtual lessons for the next term and didn’t know how we were going to get our clinical hours.”
To provide students with an intensive and safe learning environment during the pandemic, Fortis created a virtual clinical experience. “The computerized program told you a story about a patient that is presenting with certain problems,” explains Tasker. “You had to answer questions about the steps you would take and in what order. It was very different than being in the hospital where a lot of things happen concurrently. It was challenging but it helped my critical thinking. You had to stop and think, if you could only do one thing, what would you do first? That virtual experience helped cement the lessons, and I feel like it gave me a different edge than I would otherwise have.”
Procedures in the hospital were also different. Tasker worked at a long-term acute care hospital where she cared for people recovering from critical illnesses. She and the other nursing students had to take all of the precautions put in place due to the coronavirus.
“We wore masks and face shields, had temperature checks when we came in, and had to do constant hand washing to maintain hand hygiene,” she says.
COVID-positive patients were cared for in a separate room and assigned one nurse for the entire shift. “There were no aides allowed, just that nurse providing full care for the patient for their shift,” says Tasker. “They had to follow precautions, such as wearing a gown, gloves, N95 mask and face shield.”
Although Tasker didn’t care for COVID-positive patients, she did see, first- hand, the emotional impact of the pandemic on her patients as they weren’t allowed to have visitors.
“It was sad,” she says. “In some cases, if a patient was dying, the hospital would allow them to have one family member come in to be with them in their final moments. Until then they were alone. That was hard for the patient, and hard for me personally, to see them feel so alone.”
Starting a job on the frontlines during the pandemic might make some people rethink their decision to go into nursing, but this wasn’t the case for Tasker.
“There were risks even before COVID,” she says. “Every time you go to work, you could be in a position to encounter other infectious diseases or potential problems. It’s part of what you have set out to do. All you can do is take precautions and do everything right.”
Once she’s gets her license, Tasker plans to work at a long-term nursing care facility and post-acute rehabilitation center. “It’s where I started as an STNA (state tested nursing assistant),” she says. “That’s where I’m happiest. I enjoy what I do there for residents. They’ve lived their lives and it’s an honor to be there for them during this time.”
If Tasker’s journey sounds like a path you’d like to follow, St. Paul’s School of Nursing, with campuses in Staten Island and Queens, can help you get started. Note: Each school has different protocols that are changing in response to local pandemic conditions. This is one student’s experience and yours may differ depending on your school and program. Click here for more information or call us today at (855) 436-7847 and speak to one of our career counselors.