Nursing Students Step up to Help Providers on the Front Lines of COVID-19

By Courtney Mitchell

With clinical rotations canceled for School of Nursing students, students and faculty members have stepped up to support area health care providers and facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, offering everything from nursing expertise to overnight childcare and managing droves of equipment and food donations.

More than 70 nursing students and faculty at the school are supporting in-house patient care and telehealth efforts for the hospital and outpatients clinics as nurses and nursing assistants, offering childcare and pet-sitting services, donating blood, masks, diapers and other supplies and educating the community on best-practices for staying safe amid COVID-19.

“Our students actively and immediately sought this volunteer opportunity to help others,” says Louise Fleming, PhD, MSN-Ed, RN, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Programs & Division. “Since so many of them are unable to complete their remaining clinical rotations this year, they have been eager to find ways to directly help others during this crisis.”

Some students are actively working as nursing assistants in hospital. Senior Ace Motas works in the Burn ICU and floats to other units while senior Shelby Smith works in the hospital and is part of a research team that has initiated a new study on how COVID-19 is affecting pregnant women’s psychological health. Junior Alison Dodge has picked up extra work in UNC’s intermediate surgical care unit (ISCU).

“To help with the difficulties surrounding COVID19 that patients and families are facing, I have been continuing to work as an NA at UNC Medical Center,” she says. “There has been a shortage of workers on the unit, so I have been trying to take up shifts that I can to continue to help the patients who are receiving treatments for surgical interventions at this time.”

Nurses in the school’s graduate programs have picked up extra shifts in the emergency department and other clinics, swabbing patients to rule out COVID-19, caring for cancer patients and serving the needs of at-risk children.

Kristi McClain, who will graduate with her masters of nursing this spring, has been at a UNC pediatrics outpatient specialty clinic administering immunotherapy and biologics.

“A lot of these kids are at increased risk for complications related to COVID-19 because of underlying health conditions such as asthma,” she says. “Without receiving some of these medications, these children could experience asthma exacerbations.

Forty School of Nursing students have joined students from other UNC health affairs schools in providing childcare, both daytime and overnight, to nursing and medical staff at UNC Hospitals as those providers work tirelessly to care for those affected by COVID-19 and manage families at home.