The World Came to a Halt
It was the first week of March when I got the call that students would not be returning to campus after spring break. Thoughts raced through my mind—how can this happen? To put this into context, I am the Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Nursing at the Commonwealth Campuses for the College of Nursing at the Pennsylvania State University. I oversee approximately 60 faculty and over 1000 students in the various undergraduate programs. I am used to solving problems and finding solutions to complex issues, but this issue I was not prepared for.
We live in a technological, innovative country with some of the best scientists and health care providers in the world. So again, how can this happen? How can a virus that does not cause any symptoms in some people and kills others be ravaging our country? How long will we be shut down? How can I promote excellence in nursing education in a completely online environment? How will students adjust to this learning environment? How will faculty, staff, and students react? Will my family be okay? What will life look like for me as a nurse in PA, when I see what is going on in NYC on the news? So many questions, so few answers. This was Wednesday of spring break week and classes were to resume in 4 days.
Thank goodness for adrenaline. I spent the next week working tirelessly with different vendors to get access to various virtual clinical replacement experiences for our students—all at no cost, which I felt was imperative for all that students were already experiencing in these uncertain times. Trainings were arranged for faculty and students. Faculty, staff, and students adjusted, and the semester went on in a new way but one that allowed the students to meet their educational objectives. A way that has allowed us, as a College, to grow educationally and to better our pedagogy. But the world was still stopped. We could no longer get a haircut, go out to eat, or even take our kids to a park, yet we adapted and persisted.
Why? Because we are Penn State Nurses and this is what we have been taught to do.
As a nurse, I understand and value why the world has stopped. Nothing is more precious than your health and well-being, but we must remember to take care of each other during these trying times. Families are losing loved ones without being able to say goodbye, grandparents are unable to visit their beloved grandchildren due to the need to maintain physical distancing. Countless individuals have lost their jobs and those that are working are adjusting to working in what I call “chaos” at home or putting their lives on the line working in a factory or a hospital.
During and after this pandemic, we must remember that one’s mental health is just as important as their physical health and many people are facing countless stressors that may need mental health help in the months and years to come. They should not be stigmatized against; instead, they should be applauded for seeking help.
It is now May and commencement has come and gone, but the world is still not open and won’t be really open again until we have a vaccine for this virus and people feel confident to return to “normal.” Yet, we do what we do best as Penn Staters. We showed resilience and adapted and persisted through all of this, while caring for each other and our students through countless phone calls, Zoom meetings, text messaging, and social media outlets. We Are truly a family. We Are facing this pandemic head on and will adapt as needed to serve our mission. We Are Penn State Nurses.
The world may have come to a halt but the love and compassion we have for each other has never been stronger and I hope some of the values we have found during this pandemic, such as families eating dinner together again, going for walks together, and just talking to each other, will last long after this pandemic.
We Are . . .