ANNANDALE, Va. — Another class of nursing students graduates in the next couple weeks, and their upcoming jobs look very different than they previously imagined.
Nursing students at Northern Virginia Community College are in the process of taking finals and preparing for their future jobs in the health care field.
Faculty member Mary Pat O'Brien said it is important to empower these students as they prepare for the new normal.
"Every time a class graduates, there are challenges, but nothing like this time, where every health care professional is being challenged," O'Brien said.
The pandemic is not only affecting health care professionals but also aspiring nurses who are ready to join the medical teams on the front lines.
Graduating senior Maritsa Cholmondeley said it was inspiring watching fellow health care workers make a difference during this COVID-19 season. She now feels ready to graduate and make a difference.
"I want to go into adolescent psychiatry so especially for young people who may already have mental health needs, to have this added stress, it made me feel even more confident of the need for the work," Cholmondeley said.
"Our colleagues and previous mentors -- we are all looking out for each other because that is what nursing does. Nursing fixes everything. Nurses take care of everything," O'Brien said.
"I guess that makes it extra satisfying and rewarding because when you do overcome these hurdles and you reach a summit of learning, you feel like you’re constantly building on the knowledge," Cholmondeley said.
The transition was made even more difficult after being forced to move classes and clinicals online.
"The students came through in such a beautiful way, everyone showed up prepared and ready to do the work," faculty member Anne-Mette Harding said.
"We had already worked at putting on a robust clinical simulation program for our seniors. We put together this program that would take them through a bunch of cases and simulations. Then, all of a sudden, the coronavirus hit and it stopped. We decided to take it online. We are going to make it virtual. We will make it happen. We need to get these students the hours they need for the Virginia Board of Nursing," Harding said.
"I don’t think anyone in the class will ever forget. Each student that goes forward, they all go in different areas and they are all going to have an impact," O'Brien said.
The next class of nursing students plan to graduate next week with a traditional pinning ceremony. For the first time, the ceremony takes place virtually.
"We look to you the next generation. You are the future. Everyone goes out to make a difference and improve the situation. We don’t have all the solutions or answers, but we are always looking for them," O'Brien said.