COVID-19 (Coronavirus): Responding to a health crisis

Globally, we are in the midst of a battle against one of the largest healthcare challenges of our lifetime: the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.  According to the CDC, COVID-19 or the coronavirus, “is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.” The CDC states that fever, cough, and shortness of breath are common symptoms of COVID-19 and that older adults and those with heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease are especially at risk for having major complications as a result of the virus. 

What’s being done?

Local and state governments have been taking drastic measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of Monday night, California, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington have closed down all bars and restaurants. Workplaces all over the country are also temporarily shutting down or implementing “work from home” policies.  

Higher Education Responds

Institutions of higher education, and especially nursing programs, are also taking measures to slow the spread of the virus. 

“Our University has shifted all face-to-face and blended courses to online through April 5, and all online courses will continue on their regular schedule. We are addressing any practicum issues on an individual basis,” said Dr. Richelle Rennegarbe, Nursing Division Chair at McKendree University

Dr. Suling Li, Chief Nursing Officer and Chair in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Lewis University, added that all students that have traveled to high-risk areas are being asked to self-quarantine. 

Dr. Judy Neubrander, Dean of Illinois State University’s Mennonite College of Nursing, says, “Illinois State University announced that we will be shifting to an online-only model for both theory and clinical through the end of the semester. The landscape is changing by the hour, but it reassures me to know that nurses in general are ‘can-do’ type people. Together, we will get through this.” 

Many colleges are taking steps similar to McKendree University and Lewis University by either extending spring break or shifting all coursework online. While this is the extent that most institutions of higher education are able to combat the virus, for nursing programs, this is just the beginning. 

Nursing Program Responds

In addition to the regular precautions that nursing programs around the country are taking, it is also their job to help educate nurses — who are helping to educate the public — on the different aspects of the COVID-19. 

“Nursing educators need to understand and teach how COVID-19 is different from the flu and why there is a need to slow down the spread,” said Dr. Teresa Wischmann, Dean at Trinity College of Nursing & Health Sciences

Dr. Suling Li added that nursing professors and students alike should “be a role model for their community, as you don’t know who are the carriers at this time.  You should be teaching every patient that you encounter about the danger of this disease.”  

Dr. Sandie Soldwisch, President of St. Anthony College of Nursing, agrees. “It is critical that nursing educators and students help educate the public and role model healthy hygiene practices.” 

Because of some of the conflicting or confusing information around COVID-19, nursing programs that instruct and direct their students to reputable sources of information are essential. 

What can I do?

While there are a number of things that can be done to stay safe from COVID-19, the main ones are to wash your hands regularly and to limit physical social interaction. As COVID-19 continues to spread, you should monitor the guidelines sent out from the CDC and your state-specific health department. Lastly, Dr. Kim Amer, Interim Director of the School of Nursing at DePaul University offered this advice: “Be smart and be a good community member. If you have a neighbor who is sick or at risk, check on them.” 

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