NYU Nursing Students Respond to Pandemic

NYU nursing students reflect on their field of study and future plans as Coronavirus consumes the nation’s attention.

The NYU Rory Meyers School of Nursing stands on First Avenue near the East River. Nursing students talk about their renewed passion in the healthcare field due to the current fight against COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Zhao)

As New Yorkers await the apex of the pandemic, NYU Rory Meyers Nursing students find themselves experiencing both anxiety about entering the workforce and a renewed passion for public health.

The coronavirus has exhausted medical professionals and supplies in New York State. In efforts to ensure that hospitals are properly equipped, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has taken drastic steps including lifting work hour restrictions for residents and ordering bulk shipments of medical supplies for hospitals across the state. Medical workers are being imported from across the country and the strain on them is tremendous, one effect being an increasing number of cases and deaths reported among doctors, EMTs and nurses who are exposed to the virus at much higher rates. First-year nursing student Leslie Rocano was sent home from her program when NYU shifted to remote instruction.

“It’s all really frightening,” Rocano said. “Not only do I deal with the chaos of coming back home [from college] but also keeping up with the news about the field I will eventually go into, it is all really stressful.”

Rocano originally chose to study nursing because of her passion for biology and providing medical care for less fortunate people. Rocano is part of the LEAD Honors Program, where she would have had the opportunity this semester to shadow healthcare professionals, but because of NYU’s move to online classes, the program was canceled until further notice. 

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“Nursing is unlike any other majors because it requires hands-on work,” Rocano said. “It’s sad because I bought my purple scrubs and was so excited to start on this journey early.”

While Rocano was disappointed that she would be unable to start her nursing clinicals earlier, she told WSN that the situation is much harder for seniors in Rory Meyers. 

“Nursing students have to complete a number of hours at a hospital in order to get certified, and lots of seniors have yet to fulfill them because of school cancellation,” Rocano said. “I’m sure an exception will eventually be made, but it’s that uncertainty that must be really frightening.”

Rory Meyers senior Ridhi Vakharia is one of those graduating seniors who is subject to that uncertainty.

“When we got the final email that said we are going remote, it was really stressful,” Vakharia said. “I was learning a lot through going to the hospital twice a week. Nursing is supposed to be hands-on.”

Faculty at Rory Meyers have been trying to get their students to complete clinical hours in more creative ways, including phone banking coronavirus patients for the health care force. Their job is to let patients know their results alongside instructors and other nurses.

“We do practice our skills in a non-traditional way,” Vakharia said. “It’s not ideal but they are trying their best.”

Despite the school’s best efforts, many unanswered questions are left among graduating nursing students.

“What does this mean for us when we graduate? If this does not end before we graduate, is my first job going to require working in the pandemic? Will I have to start working before I even get my license if staff shortages get that bad?” Vakharia said. 

While currently in a state of uncertainty regarding their futures, Rocano says her passion for public health has grown from the experience.

“The first week of all of this going down, I felt a lot of anxiety for me and the rest of the country as a whole,” Rocano said. “Not being able to do anything or help makes the anxiety worse. Knowing that in the future I’ll be able to actively help patients makes me not only more passionate about the career but offers me a form of peace.”

Email Mina Mohammadi at [email protected]

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