2020 Nursing Page Update

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York College Nursing Major Gets Wide Range of Experience Amid Pandemic

A nursing student posing for pictures in the Simulation Lab

Learning how to be a nurse in a pandemic means learning with professionals who are dealing with the same things students are for the first time, says Nursing student Zach Gibbs ’22.

When Zach Gibbs graduates from York College of Pennsylvania in December of 2022, he’ll enter the healthcare industry as a nurse who’s been trained before, during, and, to some extent, after a pandemic.

“It was a unique experience for students, because we learned how to be a nurse in a pandemic while we were learning how to be a nurse,” Gibbs says.

So long as York College Nursing students wore proper PPE, were asymptomatic, and submitted to occasional testing, they were permitted to be in WellSpan York Hospital for their clinical rotations.

Gibbs seized the opportunity to soak in as much as he could about different aspects of the field. Between learning about the pandemic and vaccines to being able to get perspectives from his York College professors as things were developing, the experience has been invaluable, he says.

Effects of a pandemic

Gibbs came to understand that nursing in a pandemic also meant nursing amid the fallout from it.

One nurse he worked with was pulled from her typical rotation to work exclusively in the COVID-19 unit. When she returned to her regular rotation weeks later, the nurse told Gibbs she had forgotten how to be a regular nurse since treating COVID-19 patients.

She had to re-learn that, Gibbs recalls. What made for a positive educational experience, he says, was learning how to be a nurse in a pandemic alongside professionals who were learning the same things.

“COVID-19 ended up being a specialty that was a theme throughout all of my clinical experience,” Gibbs says. The adaptation was natural, but it didn’t necessarily make it easy for him.

“It was something we should expect in our career choice,” he says. “How do we implement new clinical guidelines to deal with this specific thing going on?”

Preparing for success

The first time one of his clinical situations intersected with a classroom lesson, his memory took him all the way back to his first Nursing class at York College.

Classroom learning is done in a controlled setting without patients, he says. When a critically ill patient he was with in the hospital required a full neurological exam, Gibbs was able to recall what he had learned in that controlled lab setting.

“I’m glad I did that first in the classroom,” Gibbs says. “It’s rolling through the motions of what to expect then what to do when you don’t expect it.”

Experiences builds on each other. And the classroom lessons always pop up in clinicals, Gibbs says. “We start with those basics early in nursing. You need a good foundation first that prepares you for success.”

Once Gibbs earns his Bachelor of Science from York College, he’s thinking about pursuing a Doctorate of Nursing, noting he’s interested in the College’s Nurse Anesthetist doctorate program.

Beyond that, his experiences at York College have made him consider becoming a family nurse practitioner. Wherever his path takes him, Gibbs says, he’ll be ready.