By Jeff Todd

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. (CBS4) – A handful of nursing students at Metro State University of Denver were facing an uncertain future and potentially no graduation after their on-the-job training was canceled in their last semester. A community health nonprofit stepped up to provide a place for the nurses to train, and now they’re on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.

(credit: Metropolitan State University at Denver)

“We’ve been doing the swabbing so we’re really on the front lines. We get dressed in our full body suit, we have double layered masks, face shields, gloves. The cars pull through, we explain the procedure. Swab everybody,” said Micahla Cowles, one of the MSU Denver students now working at STRIDE Community Health Center in Wheat Ridge.

Cowles had a practicum, a graduation required job shadow, canceled at a hospital because of the pandemic. MSU Denver worked with STRIDE to find a place for the students to get more than 90 hours of work.

“At first I was a little hesitant just because of everything going on. As I started thinking about it, I was like, there’s nobody else taking students. So I decided that somebody needs to teach them, and at some point in the future they’re going to need to know how to deal with this kind of situation. So I emailed MSU and said we’ll take your students,” said Stephanie Campbell, the Director of Nursing at STRIDE Community Health.

(credit: CBS)

Five students have been working for the past few weeks at STRIDE, manning the drive-up testing. Five more will take their place next week.

“I remembered what it was like to need to graduate. I remember what it was like to want to learn. And I remembered that we don’t always do things this way,” Campbell said.

“I’m very familiar with personal protective equipment. I was very grateful they had a lot for us to choose from and they had options for us to wear what we feel safe in. I feel very prepared by my nursing education program to wear that PPE to wear it properly,” Cowles said.  “It was an opportunity for me to just be compassionate and to listen and to learn. There’s nothing like getting your hands into the project and working with the clay if you will.”

Both students and the community health group, which normally serves Medicaid recipient and the uninsured, are hoping this is the beginning of a prosperous relationship.

(credit: CBS)

“I’ve been really impressed. It’s very much a team environment. They were very receptive of us and inclusive of us as students. They didn’t hesitate to educate us what their expectations were and  that’s something I appreciate. Everyone here has been super helpful, very friendly, it’s been a great experience. I really hope that the relationship that we’ve built continues to grow for everybody’s benefit,” Cowles said.

She’s hoping to graduate, take the national test, and be in the workforce as a nurse by the end of the summer.

“I think a lot of students would have been scared at this situation and none of them were, none of them were scared at all,” Campbell said. “I hope whatever we’ve taught them here will carry them through whatever they’re going to be doing in the future.”

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Jeff Todd

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