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Nursing students facing ‘the fear of the unknown’ as graduation nears

Nursing students never could have guessed they would be walking into a pandemic as they started their careers. Now they are say they are nervous but ready.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Foregoing family dinners and sleeping away from their home are some the sacrifices our healthcare heroes have made over the last two months. But for many it’s a calling, including the men and women walking into the nursing profession for the first time.

"When you take a vow to take care of patients, you take that vow knowing you have to take care of these patients despite what diseases or pandemics or any kind of problems arise,” Brittany Suntken, a Galen College of Nursing student said.

The end of her education has looked much different from the first few years, without access to tools and techniques that are typical for the hands-on learning experience.

"In the last seven to eight weeks our entire world in education has been flipped upside down”, Dr. Audria Denker, Executive Vice President of Prelicensure Nursing at Galen College of Nursing, said.

Dr. Denker said instructors have used virtual “escape rooms”, video chats and phone calls to help keep students engaged.  "Our job is to graduate safe, competent, caring new graduate nurses that the healthcare providers can hire and then mold them into the nurse that they want for their organization. So we really had to think outside the box to make that happen."

Other coursework changes -- clinicals were cancelled and instructors put an emphasis on infection control like never before. "Teaching how to control the spread of an infection is so important. Vitally important. Because people are dying”, Denker explained.

It’s the harsh reality and for new nurses, a serious realization.

Suntken said, "This whole thing has been mass chaos and I feel like it’s the nurses responsibility to give these patients peace of mind and comfort and reassurance and that's what I love about it."

She is scheduled to graduate in June, and take her board certification exams in the week after that.  So is Joseph Bryan, and they're honest, explaing they have mixed emotions.

"I am ready, I’m excited, I might be a little nervous, I'm not going to lie”, Suntken said.

Bryan said, "I guess it’s the fear of the unknown."

They started this journey long before COVID19 was commonly known. But their mission never has never wavered, in fact just thought of a delayed graduation was cause for concern.

Bryan said, "nursing school is all consuming of your life- for two years we have done nothing but study, we put our families on hold, we look forward to this day, we look forward  to June 22 for two years and it would've been devastating, I might of cried a little bit."

Luckily for this group, graduation will go on and they'll take their boards as planned. Signing up to serve in an industry where uncertainty is only outweighed by their passion for serving people.

Denker said her fear is long-time nurses may be considering this as the right time to retire. Meanwhile, the college is getting an influx of calls from prospective students wanting to learn more about how they can join the force of the healthcare heroes.


►Contact reporter Shay McAlister at smcalister@whas11.com. Follow her on Twitter (@WHAS11Shay) and Facebook. 

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