Persevering during COVID-19

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A scene from a blood drive in March 2020. | Photo: American Red Cross

The 2020 Chabot College Nursing class was on track to graduate come May. A mere 65 additional clinical hours stood between the students and the culmination of two years of constant hard work. Once completed, all of the tears shed, the financial burden and the time spent would count for something; they would graduate with their Associate’s Degree in Nursing, propelling them into their future within the medical field. But as soon as COVID-19 started to rear its head in the U.S., hospitals began cutting preceptorships as a means to limit the potential spread of the virus.

Chabot nursing student Juan Emperado says, “our clinical group was one of the first ones to get booted out of our hospital.” Class president Nicole Labayog explains, “without our preceptorship, we are unable to graduate.” Gripped with the fear of having to put their career on hold for a year, the 2020 Chabot College Nursing class quickly rallied to find a means to graduate. “We wrote to the governor and department of consumer affairs,” tells Labayog.

Recently, the Board of Registered Nursing and the Department of Consumer Affairs altered their clinical hour requirements, allowing volunteer opportunities to account for some of the hours due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This change was a flicker of hope for the 2020 Nursing class of Chabot College. Nursing student Lisa Phan explains, “we needed direct patient care hours; we need[ed] to actually interact with the public.” Finding a volunteer program that allowed in-person contact with others during the age of COVID-19 proved to be an almost impossible standard. Labayog says, “every day the students of Chabot were looking for volunteer opportunities whether it was food banks, we got in touch with Alameda County Public Health Department, Telehealth, and [then] finally Red Cross said ‘yes, we can take all of you.'”

The nursing students of Chabot College volunteered as Blood Screeners and Blood Ambassadors for the Red Cross. “We learned so much from it,” explains Phan. “Everyone I’ve talked to from the program feels like they’re doing really rewarding work. We’re not practicing our nursing hard skills, but we are practicing our soft skills in communication, assessing people and their emotional status, and learning how to comfort in a way that’s not physical.”

Labayog proudly reports, “the Board of Registered Nursing approved our hours, and because of [the Red Cross] we’re graduating.” All 31 students. For Phan, graduation meant she was able to keep a significant promise. “I lost my mom to cancer a year ago. For me, this was very personal because she made me promise her that I would finish nursing school no matter what… It’s been a pretty emotional and amazing experience to be able to just finally finish.” Labayog reflects, “I’m thankful for this experience, even though it was such a challenge, and it felt so dark and hopeless at one point.”

Congratulations, Chabot College Nursing Class of 2020. Your determination and perseverance is the inspiration we all need during these uncertain times.

Sarah Ward is a volunteer writer with the Northern California Coastal Region.