COVID-19 impacted Bellin College students and alums

The impact of COVID-19 was felt throughout Bellin College and also our alums.

Sierra Bates, 2020

Recent graduate Sierra Bates was working in the Intensive Care Unit at HSHS St. Vincent Hospital during the last several months. She offers a little bit of what it is like working during the COVID-19 situation.

“I am trying to work extra hours as I am using my work experience for clinical,” Bates said. “I am also required to pick up extra on call shifts for our COVID-19 ICU. We wear hair covers, face shields, and surgical masks 24/7 on the floor. We wear our N95s for all vented patients, patients with trachs, CPAP, BIPAP, and any aerosolizing procedures. We also get temperature checked at the door when we come in and interviewed about symptoms. I have been given a mask to wear in and out of work in addition to my PPE on the floor.”  

“Studying isn’t great as I am very distracted at home,” Bates said. “I miss studying at school!” 

Many students are just looking forward to being back on campus and later lending a hand to those already on the frontlines of the pandemic.

“It’s definitely been tough being away from my friends and Bellin College family,” said Lauren Harvey, 2021 BSN student. “Learning online just isn’t the same as being on campus.  However, you simply have to adjust and make the best of a tough situation. With the recorded lectures up on my TV, it’s just like being in class minus the professor plus a couch. I hope and can’t wait to be back in lecture for my senior year this fall. That puts me one step closer to graduation and one step closer to joining the profession that’s so bravely on the frontlines of this battle we’re facing.”        

Capt. Jessica Feda, left, and John Wegh on deployment.

Our nursing program isn’t the only one affected. The doctor of science in physical therapy program and physical therapy fellowship has also seen changes.

Many of our fellows-in-training have been laid off or furloughed, see patients via telehealth, or are providing services beyond PT within their health systems,” said Mark Shepherd, Orthopaedic and Manual Physical Therapy Fellowship Program Director. “The outpatient physical therapy world has been really effected. The upside, though, is our fellowship program is hybrid — meaning all of our didactic content was already offered via online learning.  We excel in this offering as we have been doing this for over 10 years now with fellowship training so we haven’t skipped a beat in any of our didactic course offerings.”

Physical therapy fellowship student, Capt. Jessica Feda, in the National Health Service Corps and was deployed to the frontlines of care. She was assisting with screening and treatment of patients with COVID-19. These professionals are learning the best practices in the rehabilitation of the patients who may have ICU-acquired weakness, frailty and pulmonary function that can impact outcomes.

Kelsey Tavs, 2018

Bellin College alumna Kelsey Tavs, BSN class of 2018, is an RN at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton working to care for COVID-19 patients.

“Everything you see hyped up on social media — the personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing, visitor restrictions, fear of infecting your own family members, and nurses uniting together — has a different kind of meaning when you are the one in the room providing care for those in the fight against this virus,” Tavs said.

“COVID-19 has even more so ignited my passion and pride for the nursing profession,” Tavs said. “The distinct characteristics of a nurse have been highlighted tremendously these past few weeks — intelligence, a caring and compassionate heart, adaptability, resilience and even our entertaining sense of humor. When some are told to stay in their home, nurses are the ones running full force toward the action.”

For students who are also spouses and parents, it has also been a unique experience.

Ashley Wallner’s daughters helped decorate their front door in support of healthcare and frontline workers.

Ashley Wallner, BSN 2020, has had to juggle being a teacher to her fourth- and first-graders, studying online as a nursing student and working at the hospital, which she was called off from which gave her more time to spend with her children.

“Transforming to an exclusively online format has been an adjustment,” Wallner said. “It is hard to wake up and feel motivated to sit down and listen to lectures via a computer screen, study for exams, or be able to concentrate with children also home.”

“Many of us have looked forward to the moment of walking across the stage, being handed our diplomas, and celebrating that moment with our families,” she said. “For me, it was something that I needed as it would be a memory to tie everything together for my children. They see every day how hard I work and study, but it was the memory of celebrating with them that is the hardest part to get past.”

Lindsey Semler, BSN class of 2020, worked as a CNA at Bellin Hospital during her last semester at Bellin College.

“It is easy to say that this is not how I envisioned my last semester of nursing school,” she said. “If this situation has taught me anything, it is the importance of being flexible and adaptable as a nurse. With classes being switched to online and the college closing, my friends and I have been able to have study sessions and work on group projects through virtual video chats. I, also, work as a CNA at Bellin Hospital and have worked on the COVID unit several times. Again, this has put me outside of my normal routine, but it has strengthened my passion to be a nurse. This is what I have been preparing for in all my education. There’s no denying these will be unforgotten times, but the lessons and growth occurring from it is what binds us all.”

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