When we think of professions that are often described as selfless, nursing tends to always be at the top of the list. What is typically an already demanding career or degree choice is now faced with perhaps its toughest challenge: COVID-19. With more than 9 million active cases currently in the United States, nurses are on the front lines of a global pandemic.
Patricia Fichter-Patrick, DNP, is TLU’s assistant director of nursing for the Accelerated Bachelor of Science (ABSN) program. With more than 28 years of experience as a NICU nurse, she has served in various clinical roles and began teaching full-time in 2013. Despite having seen some of the toughest cases involving premature babies, Fichter-Patrick says COVID-19 has taught her resiliency above all else.
“Nurses and educators have to think outside the box to provide meaningful experiences for students,” she said. “Students are being pushed outside of their comfort zones as they become registered nurses during a public health crisis. They are getting first-hand exposure to the impact COVID has on individuals, our communities, and globally. These experiences, while difficult, will provide them with a strong understanding of the important role nurses have in health care.”
While overseeing TLU’s ABSN program, the challenges of online learning proved especially difficult for many of her courses.
“The greatest challenge has been moving a face-to-face curriculum to a virtual format, engaging the students, and developing relationships in a virtual environment,” she said. “However, the greatest triumph is having our first cohort of ABSN students who are dedicated, resilient, flexible, and focused. Nursing provides an opportunity to truly make an impact when people are most vulnerable and everything you do affects patient outcomes. Nursing is more than a job. It is who and what you are, and it is a commitment to serve the public and always do what is right.”
ABSN student John Mahoney chose to pursue a career in health care after working for a year as a medical scribe in Fort Worth. He was inspired by the work he saw nurses doing each and every day.
“When I become a nurse, I know a significant part of my work will be educating patients,” he said. “I’ll need to have the best and most accurate information to teach patients so they are able to take care of themselves at home. Seeing how rapidly new information has spread about COVID-19 has inspired me to make sure I’m knowledgeable about my patients' conditions to help them remain healthy.”
Francesca Chaduka ’20 has always admired the medical field. As an ABSN student with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences from Texas Tech University, she knew during undergraduate studies that she wanted to follow in the footsteps of all the women in her family.
She is proud to be a nursing student, especially as the world faces a pandemic.
“COVID-19 has turned the entire globe upside down in more ways than one,” she said. “It has also revealed the startling shortage of nurses and overall health care personnel. Although it’s a little more difficult, I know when my peers and I reach our goals that it will ultimately serve our communities well.”
Chaduka says that aspect of community service and patient care made her want to pursue the field.
“Nurses are the fundamental building blocks of patient care and are routinely the first and last health personnel to see a patient,” she said. “We are the patient’s primary advocate and their last measure of protection. For me, it’s about being a positive portion of people’s worst moments. That’s why I feel it’s my purpose. If you have compassion for people’s health and respect the art of healing, I urge you to consider a nursing career.”
When Lynda Nguyen began taking care of a family member with breast cancer at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, she was inspired to make a career change from luxury retail to nursing.
“The pandemic has inspired me even more to be able to contribute to my community and to the world,” she said. “My favorite thing about becoming a nurse is the opportunity to make a positive impact on people.”
Both Chaduka and Nguyen were drawn to the quality of TLU’s ABSN program, the one-on-one guidance, and the high NCLEX pass rates. Despite the difficulties of learning a very hands-on profession during a time of quarantine and isolation, both students were able to complete clinical rotations.
“It was tough to learn fundamental nursing skills like medical administration with injections or how to insert a catheter through Zoom,” Nguyen said. “However, we were able to start on-campus labs about five weeks into the course and it was tremendously helpful to practice on mannequins and with peers. We all took precautions like temperature checks, wearing masks, and keeping classes under 10 people.”
Chaduka said her professors really care about their students and found it comforting when they began class by asking how students were feeling and if they needed help.
“Coming from a large university like Texas Tech, I found myself slipping through the cracks in the large lecture rooms, and I was looking forward to the more intimate learning experience at TLU,” she said. “TLU ultimately met all my needs and worked with me so compassionately—during a global pandemic at that—to help me reach my goals.”
Christy Hiduke, a former teacher, also comes from a long line of nurses. She sees health care as a dynamic profession where her love for education can continue in a career with immense job stability.
“This might not sound important to younger students, but as a second career at this stage in my life, it’s extremely important for my family and me,” she said. “I was also pleasantly surprised that I had someone from TLU to guide me through the application process. And it wasn’t only Kelcie Bartels, it was every person I spoke with at TLU. Everyone was always so polite and took time to answer all of my questions. This has been the case with every TLU employee I’ve interacted with and that wasn’t my experience at other universities.”
Hiduke says she hopes more young people will see the current health crisis as an opportunity to make a difference.
“During COVID, nurses have put their lives on the line,” she said. “As a single mom, I had to take that into consideration. However, with the support of my family, I decided to follow my passion and embrace the fact that helping others is what makes me happy. Becoming a nurse during a pandemic has only strengthened my desire to help others.”