Nursing Students on the Frontlines of COVID-19

APNA News: The Psychiatric Nursing Voice  |  July 2020 Members' Corner Edition

Jasmine Bratton-RobinsonWith a focus on nurse mental health, APNA member Jasmine Bratton-Robinson, MSN-Ed., RN (pictured left) interviews two student nurses and a recent graduate about their experience with the pandemic:

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is widespread. After the City University of New York (CUNY) converted all courses to an online format in March, I conducted interviews with two CUNY York College Nursing students and one recent graduate. These students shared their journeys to confront COVID-19 while balancing frontline work with personal and professional ambitions.

Roxanna Garcia, a native New Yorker, is a Registered Professional Nurse working in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at a local hospital. Roxanna is currently enrolled in the York College RN to BS nursing program. During the Spring 2020 semester, she has overcome many challenges. While overseas completing volunteer work in the Philippines, the news began to spread of a global pandemic. Upon her return, Roxanna was immediately placed on leave from her place of employment pending results of COVID-19 testing. She was isolated from family, friends, and what she is very passionate about: her patients. Upon being cleared to return to work, Roxanna found that her workload had more than doubled as her colleagues scrambled to adapt to the new circumstances of the pandemic. While having to deal with the emotional, and psychological stress of the new intensified work environment, she also had to maintain her coursework.

“I’m fortunate that I live alone and don't have to come home to do the work of caring for family or stress about keeping distance from people I live with. That being said, it is still important to find time for self-care,” Roxanna says. “For me that was doing yoga, giving myself a manicure and pedicure, the occasional glass of wine or two, cooking, and now that the weather is warming-up, I can start riding my bicycle again.” Roxanna said that she felt torn between work demands and academic goals of completing her courses to progress in the nursing program, but credits her professors for helping her adapt. “All the professors have been supportive in helping me make it through this semester,” she says. Roxanna successfully completed her coursework, continues to work in the ICU providing care to her patients, and plans to continue her academic course progression.

"Right now, more than ever, it is important to make life simple, work together, and look to create small, achievable goals...We must celebrate these small successes we make with gratitude."

Hasinah Miah is a Registered Professional Nurse working on a Medical-Surgical Unit at a public hospital. She is enrolled in the RN-BS Nursing Program at York College. As her unit converted to be a COVID-19 unit, she worked extra shifts, and her team of health professionals all came together to battle the effects of the pandemic on the frontlines. “COVID-19 has been a situation that healthcare workers were never prepared to battle. All of our daily activities in life, school, and work have become impossible to obtain,” Hasina says. As the mental and social pressures continued to rise, Hasina often relied on her fellow co-workers for support, and strength.

Even with the difficulties, Hasina emphasizes the importance of focusing on the positive. “Right now, more than ever, it is important to make life simple, work together, and look to create small, achievable goals,” she says. “We must celebrate these small successes we make with gratitude. This time is challenging, and you can allow yourself to have these emotions and feelings.”

Ridhi Sukhnandan is a recent graduate of the York College Registered Nurse program and officially became a Registered Professional Nurse this past spring. Despite the worsening pandemic, she sought out employment in the hospital setting to provide direct care to patients in need. She is now a Perioperative Nurse with a private hospital system. “With the knowledge that as a Registered Nurse, I am possibly risking my life to pursue my passion in nursing, I decided to embrace this opportunity placed before me as a Perioperative Nurse,” Ridhi says of her professional journey. “On day one, there were feelings of excitement, eagerness to join my fellow nurses on the workforce who make an actual impact during this pandemic, but there were also feelings of being torn by my loved ones not wanting me to take this position. I can understand their fear, but I also feel that I’m starting my career at a perfect time in which my services are needed the most.” Ridhi also shared the following advice for other student nurses and recent graduates: “I encourage you to keep being resilient…Do all that you can to take care of yourself each day. Journaling, prayers, and meditation have helped me. Look within yourself and see what works for you.”

Each of these new nurses has something in common: The passion for their career in nursing and the perseverance it takes to continue to do the work despite the daily risk faced amidst an active pandemic. Roxanna, Hasina, and Ridhi all have been met with similar challenges to balance: managing concerns for the safety of themselves, family, and patients while pursuing professional goals. But each encourages us to always seek balance in life despite the hardships faced and maintain a positive outlook.

About Jasmine Bratton-Robinson, MSN-Ed, RN

Jasmine is a lecturer with the City University of New York, York College Nursing Program. She has taught generic BSN students as well as RN to BSN nursing students. She has a Masters Degree in nursing science with a specialty in nursing education and is currently enrolled in a PhD program with a focus in nursing leadership. She plans to continue down a path of nursing education that leads to the development of various programs to assist nursing students not only throughout their careers but academic progression as well.

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