A Pandemic Resource: Nursing Students
By LIDA TUNESI
Chaya Dickel, a student at the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing, says the U.S. made the wrong choice by initially not allowing nursing students to help out in healthcare settings during the pandemic. Dickel’s article on the matter has been published as an “Editor’s Choice” in the American Journal of Public Health.
While some places, like the U.K. and Australia, gave nursing students the opportunity to serve in some supervised capacity, the U.S. chose to instead recruit retired healthcare workers. Not only was this demographic more likely to be high-risk for the virus due to their age group, Dickel pointed out, but using students from the get-go would also have been the most cost-effective choice.
“My immediate reaction when the pandemic began was to help my fellow medical personnel,” Dickel wrote. “To my surprise, as a nursing student I was deemed ‘nonessential.’”
Policies changed as the pandemic continued. Ultimately, several CUNY nursing schools had students helping out in various settings and even administering vaccines, according to Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing Professor Tara Heagele.
The main reasons for the initial decision to exclude students were a lack of personal protective equipment and concerns about the liability of unprepared students. But Dickel argued that voluntary participation, rigorous infection control training, and legal waivers could have mitigated many risks. Students could have worked in appropriately limited capacities, or as nursing assistants.
Doing this would have benefited the students, too. “During the pandemic,” Dickel wrote “nursing students could have gained a once in a lifetime experience that would have enhanced their knowledge.”