AUBURN, Ala., Sept. 8, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — When COVID-19 first swept across the country in March 2020, most Americans were forced to work from home, isolating themselves from others to reduce the virus’ rampant spread.
Health care workers did not have that option. They went to work and faced the crisis head-on. Alumni of Auburn University’s School of Nursing were among those on the front lines in 2020 and remain there now, as vigilant and determined as ever.
«Unfortunately, I don’t see this pandemic ending soon. We’re working just as hard, if not harder, than we were when it started,» said Annica Potts ’06, who has been working with COVID-19 patients since April 2020. «Someone has to be up for the challenge, though. The patients need us, whether vaccinated or not. I continuously pray for the safety of each of us front-line workers.»
As the school was marking its 40th anniversary during the 2019-20 school year, school officials began to hear stories from many of its alumni, facing the unimaginable as part of the coronavirus response. They reached out for more accounts, and a book, «Auburn Nursing—Living the Creed During the COVID-19 Pandemic,» was born. Its publication also coincided with the Year of the Nurse.
In the book foreword, Dean Gregg Newschwander, who serves as the Barbara S. Witt Professor, wrote how Auburn nurses—veteran nurses, new graduates and current students—rose to the challenge and put themselves in harm’s way to do their jobs.
They «answered the call to serve on the front lines, at the epicenters and in rural communities. They worked in their hometowns, they deployed to where they were needed most. They cared for every patient population—newborns, homeless people, the elderly and inmates. They ensured supply chains.
«They researched potential vaccines. They were terrified and exhausted; determined and resilient.»
In the book, Potts shared the struggles she faced in the COVID-19 hotspot of Albany, Georgia. She also worked in some Georgia prisons, testing inmates for exposure.
«In my recent experience, most hospitalized patients haven’t been vaccinated,» she said. «Most have been misinformed about COVID-19 and/or the vaccine and regret not having received it.»
Claudia Henderson ’83 spent 2020 at the East Alabama Medical Center’s COVID-19 testing site «with the most dedicated nurses, technicians and registration representatives. There were emotional ups and downs, but as health care workers, they recognized what they were doing would greatly impact the lives and health care of many.»
Henderson retired from the Opelika, Alabama, hospital on Jan. 1, 2021, capping off a 25-year career as director of perioperative services. But since the resurgence, she still reports to the testing site, when her new work schedule permits. She’s now a clinical associate in the School of Nursing.
Elizabeth Marshall ’95, an associate professor of nursing at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown, Virginia, saw her college pivot classes and clinicals in 2020 to ensure students still received an education and training. This year, she said students obtained vaccinations and administered more than 5,000 on their campus alone.
«Our students have been standing side-by-side with nurses taking care of all patients, including COVID-19 positive patients,» said Marshall. «They have persevered and stood strong and brave through this crisis.
«I am proud of my education from Auburn and believe it has prepared me for the challenges we are facing today.»
Chris Martin ’12, an assistant clinical professor at Auburn, said the nursing faculty on the Plains adjusted as well, relying heavily on simulation experiences since many clinical partners remain closed to students for hands-on training.
Under the new normal, Martin said faculty continue to prepare students for the future, whatever it may be.
Newschwander said he’s not sure what normal looks like anymore, adding «but I do know that as I look around and see how our students, faculty and staff adapted during the past year and how they have risen to each challenge, I am encouraged about the future.»
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SOURCE Auburn University