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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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Bellin College, MCW-Green Bay take part in disaster simulation

The Bellin College Atrium and Health Sciences Resource Center of Bellin College was transformed Thursday, April 18, 2019, into a simulated multi-casualty tornado event. The simulation aimed to give students at Bellin College and the Medical College of Wisconsin-Green Bay a chance to practice skills learned in the classroom and at various clinical sites.

The event is the culmination of multiple departments working together for the past 4-5 months to give students the real-world experience in a controlled environment. Students in the nursing, radiologic sciences and sonography programs and M2 students with Medical College of Wisconsin-Green Bay took part in the event.

“This simulation allows students the opportunity to not prepare for the simulation like they have in the past and to have to come in and not know what role they will have, what kind of patients they will work with and what will need to be done,” said Kathie DeMuth, assistant professor of nursing for Bellin College.

Staff volunteers and students were staged in the Atrium area to recreate all aspects associated with a multi-casualty event. In total, there were 42 “patients” for students to contend with and prioritize, as they would if it were a real-life scenario. These simulated patients also received realistic-looking makeup, or moulage, to increase the legitimacy of his or her injuries.

“Disasters are increasing at local, national, and global levels, as is the need for all nurses and communities to be prepared,” said Kevin Stringer, HSRC technology specialist. “Today’s graduating nurses need strong skills in disaster nursing to manage a variety of disasters in a local to a global context. Nurses can bring unique skill sets to manage emergency situations, including proper assessment, priority recognition, communication, and collaboration skills. Competency in these skills allows nurses to make accurate, life-altering decisions in highly emergent and demanding situations. This realistic, hands-on activity approach allows them to experience a disaster before job placement.”

Students were joined by various healthcare professionals from the area along with the Bellevue Fire and Rescue Department and County Rescue Services. Eight doctors and several nurses were on campus to help guide students in their simulation.

Dr. Brad Burmeister

“The disaster drill is really an exciting event for all of the students,” said Dr. Brad Burmeister, clinical professor with Medical College of Wisconsin-Green Bay and Bellin Health doctor. “This is my second year involved as a faculty member at the Medical College of Wisconsin – Green Bay campus. While the opportunity to hone some clinical skills is certainly present for the disaster, the biggest asset and unique opportunity are to work with other students.

“Oftentimes interprofessional collaboration is difficult to emulate for a student — they often are working and learning sort of independently in the clinic, ER, or in the OR,” he said. “Putting them in charge of a disaster though forces them to work together and communicate. While our group did great with communication, we had a good conversation at the debriefing about how communication could be better in the future.”

Sonography and radiology students also assisted with the simulation drill. The different departments often don’t get a chance to work together, but got their chance during the event.

“Imaging students have worked with the nurses in different aspects before, but not in a disaster situation. We have these objectives for all students. Interprofessional communication is key,” said Christina Smith, radiologic sciences instructor.

The main objectives for participating students are: 

  • Appreciate the importance of interprofessional communication
  • Demonstrate effective use of knowledge, skills and abilities to safely provide patient care
  • Collaboratively and implement interventions based on assessments and priorities
  • Identify value of partnerships in provision of quality patient care

Staff usually conducts two simulation events per year — in spring and fall. They can range from a shooting incident, fire and anything in between.

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