Newman University students and graduates certainly put their “degree of difference” to work during the COVID-19 pandemic this past year.
Take Erin Schueller, a December 2019 Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduate who didn’t have a chance to walk at commencement until May 2021.
She started her career in the medical intensive care unit at Wichita’s Ascension Via Christi St. Francis Hospital in February 2020. Two months later, her floor became the COVID-19 intensive care unit. Not even six months out of college, Schueller had to treat patients suffering from a new infectious disease nobody knew much about.
Despite the obstacles, Schueller didn’t hesitate to jump right in and put her knowledge to work.
Preparation is key
“I actually felt really prepared,” she says. “Newman gave me a lot of critical thinking skills that I think some other nurses could benefit from, but I definitely felt more prepared right out of the gate. And I know I came off of my [job] orientation early because I was more prepared than most other nurses.”
Schueller adds that “it’s been a crazy year, but I’ve learned so much.” Now she loves seeing some of her former professors in the hospital as they work with other students doing clinicals. She’s happy they stop to catch up with her and even remember her name.
To aspiring nurses, Schueller has one piece of advice that she held close to her heart over the course of treating COVID patients.
“Definitely trust your gut feeling because you know more than you think you know.”
Expectations vs. reality
Another Newman student who put his skills to the test during the pandemic was Michael Coppock, who received his Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia this past May. Even though he had expectations when he entered the nurse anesthesia program, nothing could’ve prepared him for completing clinical practice during a pandemic, he said.
“I don’t know if anything can quite prepare you for the amount of time you had to put in for clinical hours,” Coppock says. “Then when COVID came through, that was kind of a big hit all the way around. We were trying to avoid taking many steps backward as we were trying to grow and complete the program.”
Students in the nurse anesthesia program were allowed to work with COVID patients during clinical practice after they got vaccinated. Coppock says doing so was a lesson in keeping a positive outlook and staying diligent while taking care of himself and patients at the same time.
“It was a good experience, but definitely a lot of heartaches at the same time,” he says.
Coppock will continue his clinical experience through the beginning of August, after which he will take his board examinations. Once he passes those, he will begin working at a hospital in Oklahoma City. Coppock hopes to eventually pursue a Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia as well.
The degree of difference
Coppock’s fellow classmate Jeffrey Bradford Casperson is finishing his final clinical rounds this summer, too, and shares Coppock’s sentiments.
“We thought that our ICU backgrounds would prepare us for what we were going to go through in this program, and it doesn’t come close. It’s not something that you can prepare for, but luckily we were able to fall into our own little Newman family here.”
Learn more about the nursing, nurse anesthesia and pre-medicine degrees Newman University has to offer.