Nursing School During a Pandemic

Hi friends!! I know I don’t blog much anymore, but I really want to change that this year. I have so many things that I want to write about that I have experienced and I want to keep documenting everything going on in my life! I have a lot of topic ideas in mind and today I want to talk about going to nursing school during the covid-19 pandemic.

A nurse during clinical recently asked me “What’s it like going to nursing school during a pandemic?”

It sucks honestly. There have been some pros that have come out of this whole situation, but this is not how I envisioned nursing school going. I can imagine this is a common feeling amongst anyone in the world who had something taken away or changed due to the pandemic. At this point, I almost don’t even remember what it was like before March 2020. I walk through campus and can barely remember what it was like to go to in person class, study at the library, or grab food with friends between classes. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know what “zoom” was.

For reference, The University of Texas nursing program is 5 semesters technically, but you don’t start clinical rotations until your 2nd semester (what we called J1 which stands for 1st semester junior year). Your first semester (soph 2 which stands for 2nd semester sophomore year) is when you take health assessment and clinical skills. You learn various skills such as medication administration, foley catheterization, and head to toe assessments, but you don’t perform any of these skills on actual people yet. So fall 2019 was when I had my “soph 2” semester. Obviously, this was before covid hit and nursing school was normal. We went to class in person, attended skills lab, spent many nights in open lab perfecting our skills, had in person exams, and all the normal college things.

In spring 2020, I started my J1 semester. This is our first semester of clinical rotations where we build a foundation that we will continue to build on during the rest of nursing school. This is also when we have our white coat pinning ceremony to signify the beginning of our patient care experience. I feel so fortunate that I got to have this ceremony in person in February with all my nursing classmates, friends, and family before the world shut down. The 2 clinical rotation classes we were in for J1 semester was “adult health” and “mental health”. Since it was our first semester of clinicals, we had extensive orientation and they slowly eased us into the clinical experience. For mental health, I got to attend 3 different mental health facilities and I was really enjoying my time in that rotation. Luckily, we didn’t have as much orientation for that clinical and so we were able to get started on site earlier on in the semester so even when covid hit, I still felt like I got a decent amount of exposure to mental health nursing. For adult health, they started us out attending a nursing home for 3 weeks in order to perform basic skill and help care for more stable patients. Finally, after these 3 weeks we were supposed to start going to the hospital for the rest of the semester and working on both the medical/surgical and telemetry floors. Luckily, my clinical group did get one week where we got to work with our first patient in the hospital. I got to give medications to this patient with my instructor and help out the nurses with his care.

I was ready to jump back in after spring break and continue building my foundation and then the world fell apart. Spring break happened and then spring break never ended. An extended spring break turned into online classes for the rest of the semester. Online classes for spring 2020 semester turned into in person clinical in the fall and hybrid or fully online classes for fall 2020. And then spring 2021 turned into the same thing. Never in my wildest dreams did I think in May of 2021, almost 15 months later I would be writing a post like this. I know we all feel the same way. The rest of spring 2020 semester was not the best honestly. I know our professors and university did the best they could to transfer our classes online given the circumstances, but having fake patients for “online clinical” is not the same as being at the hospital in person. In hindsight, I feel kind of lucky J1 ended up being a pretty easy semester since it was online because J1 is known to be one of the hardest of nursing school.

As summer 2020 came, we had no idea if we would be able to go back to in person clinical in the fall semester and I was scared and frustrated. If UT wasn’t going to let us back into the hospital, I was highly considering taking another semester off. Online clinical just is not enough for me to feel confident caring for patients and performing skills as a future nurse. Luckily, at the end of July I got an email from UT saying clinical rotations would be in person in the fall. I was in Corpus Christi with a friend at the beach when I got that email and I almost cried I was so happy. When we came back in the fall, everything was so different. In skills lab, we had to wear face masks and face shields during our entire class. Of course, we had to wear masks in any in person lectures we had. We no longer had post conference at the hospital and had it on zoom instead. Every organization I was a part of met on zoom and that was very difficult because zoom fatigue is a real thing, y’all. But in the fall semester, I did feel very fortunate to be one of the only colleges on campus having a decent amount of classes in person. At least I got to get out of the house to go to clinical or attend an in person lecture every now and then. J2 (fall 2020) was my maternity clinical rotation and in that rotation we don’t give any medications. I absolutely loved it because I do want to be a labor and delivery nurse when I graduate, but missing out on giving medications J1 and then not getting to do it again J2 was tough. We all felt very behind.

When S1 (this semester-spring 2021) rolled around, I felt like I knew absolutely nothing. How was I a senior in nursing school, but had given a medication just 1 time? I was frustrated that the experience and foundation had been taken away from us. That’s just how life is and it’s a challenge I overcame, but it didn’t help to ease my nerves and anxiety as S1 started. During S1, we had rotations in adult health (neuro, ortho, telemetry) and pediatrics (respiratory, rehab, post-op, ER). I started off this semester very anxious, but I ended it so confident. I am so proud of the growth that I’ve experienced this semester. I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone and jumped at any new opportunities. I’ve been doing life coaching (shoutout Vanessa Yu coaching!!) and I can 100% attribute so much of my growth to those coaching sessions. I wouldn’t have had the tools I needed to grow in this way without coaching.

So now I’m at the end of another semester. I made it. There were times when I thought I wouldn’t. Just last week I cried because I thought I was going to fail a class. Nursing school is no joke and it really is a big accomplishment to be able to make it through. And on top of all that, this semester I also spent a lot of time applying for summer internships and having interviews. It was a nerve-racking time with so many unknowns. My first rejection was so hard, but luckily God had the PERFECT plan for me as I sit here writing this blog post from St.Louis, Missouri where I did get a job offer from! This Monday I start my summer internship at Barnes Jewish Hospital in the OB triage unit. I am ecstatic to dive into this experience and make the most of it! Then it will be on to applying for jobs and getting ready for 1 last semester of nursing school. At this point, UT is saying we will be back to normal this fall. All our classes should be in person and I’m hoping student organizations will be, too.

So I hope this is the end of nursing school during a pandemic. When I started soph 2, never in a million years did I see nursing school unfolding like this. But it did and we adapted and were flexible (we love using this word in nursing!!! ask any nurse lol ). There’s my update for now and I will definitely be writing more as I go through this internship! Let me know if you have any questions or there are any particular topics you want me to write about. Thanks for reading or thanks for just scrolling to the bottom to look at these photos 🙂

XOXO

Texan On The Go

White coat ceremony!
First day of clinical for S1 semester-adult health
Beginning of S1 semester (spring 2021)
Online clinical-spring 2020
Kaylee Knights, BSN, RN–>SOON
White coat ceremony!

One thought on “Nursing School During a Pandemic

  1. Kaylee, as always such a great job
    Love reading your blogs that keep the rest of us up to date with what’s going on in your life!! So proud of you and continue blogging for all of us interested people. Love you.

    Liked by 1 person

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