By Mary Walker
COVID-19 is a virus that everyone is becoming very familiar with as the days progress. Each day we all learn a little more about this virus and the precautions that each of us should take in order to protect our loved ones and stop the spread. These precautions have changed day-to-day life as we have known it for most of us in some way. As the days progress, we all are slowly adjusting to our new normal.
I graduate nursing school this month in the middle of this worldwide pandemic.
For the past two years, nursing school has been one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever done. We, as a class, have put countless hours into schoolwork and clinical hours in the hospital. We have poured our hearts into everything because we all have such passion for the field of nursing. The last semester of nursing school has seemed so far away for so long, but this semester we finally made it and the finish line is within reach. In January we started our last semester of our nursing school journey and we were all filled with so many emotions. Excitement was definitely the number one emotion because we knew graduation was a few short months away, and the hard work had finally paid off. Along with the excitement though was a little bit of sadness because while graduation is wonderful, it means not getting to see everyone we have become so close to over the past two years as we all go our separate ways.
As the semester progressed into February, we all started our senior practicums. Practicum means we were assigned to a nurse in the hospital who would teach us all that they knew and guide us into our new career of nursing. This was a change from normal clinical hours because we worked our first full 12-hour shifts and were becoming more independent. With each practicum day we all started to feel more competent and confident in our skills and the finish line was closer than ever and not as scary as it was before.
Once COVID-19 affected our homes and lives, everything came to a standstill. We were told not to report back to the hospital for clinical and that school was closed for an additional week after spring break. At first, I was a little relieved because I had extra time to catch up on school assignments and study for exams. This feeling changed when the virus got more serious.
After the first week of closure, our classes were moved to online and it was decided that we would not report back to the hospital for clinical. I was devastated because in clinical I learned so much, and I had built a great working friendship with my preceptor. I never got the chance to say a proper goodbye or a proper thank you for all of the hard work she had poured into teaching me.
It wasn’t soon after all of this that school was changed to an online format for the remainder of the semester. Most would think that it would be awesome to not have to go to school and to learn from home, but for a nursing student, it was far from the best. I never got to enjoy those last class days with my classmates or say proper goodbyes to all of them and the professors who all made it possible for me to make it this far.
As a soon-to-be graduate, I think I can speak for all 2020 graduates when I say that this virus has put a monkey wrench in a ceremony that we have all been looking forward to for so long. We have all worked so hard to make it to the finish line. Having a graduation ceremony represents a celebration and honors all of the hard work that we have done. My graduation and pinning ceremonies were scheduled for the end of April. As a result, it is unknown whether these ceremonies will take place. I am thankful to be able to still earn my degree so I can help our nurses on the frontlines with my newfound knowledge. As a new nurse during a pandemic, I am going to be entering the medical field with a different outlook as I may have otherwise.
This virus may have many negative aspects, but as a nursing student I am proud to soon represent the medical heroes who are fighting to keep our nation safe. I am entering my nursing career during a scary and unsure time, but I am happy to become part of the force that will keep our nation safe and soon make the COVID-19 virus a thing of the past.
Mary Walker is a life long citizen of Morgan County and a 2020 senior of the Athens Tech Nursing program.