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Barred From Clinic During The Pandemic, Nursing Students Find A Way To Help

UW-Madison Nursing Student Crowdsources To Help Find Child Care For Health Care Workers

Donovan James' infant son, Donovan Jr., left, grips his father's finger
In this Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, photo, Donovan James’ infant son, Donovan Jr., left, grips his father’s finger at Our House, a nonprofit organization that provides child care, shelter and other programs for working homeless people in Little Rock, Ark. in Little Rock, Ark. Danny Johnston/AP Photo

Keeley Johnson Crosby already had a bachelors degree in Spanish when she returned to school to become a nurse.

“A certain kind of person is drawn to this profession,” Johnson Crosby said, “somebody who really values self sacrifice and working towards the greater good.”

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In February, UW Health barred students from going into rooms at the hospital that require personal protective equipment like gloves and face masks during what was already a heavy flu season. Now, the fast-spreading novel coronavirus has forced the school of nursing to move all learning online, ending students’ interactions with real patients at a time when hospitals need more help than ever.

Johnson Crosby said she feels “stuck,” unable to help out during an unprecedented public health emergency. She and her fellow nursing students want to pitch in, Johnson Crosby said, and she initially worried she would lack enough clinical hours to qualify for her state nursing license.

Dr. Linda Scott, dean of the UW-Madison School of Nursing, dispelled the later concern. All 201 of the school’s final-year nursing students remain on track to graduate, she said. The school requires more training hours for degrees than the state requires for its licenses. Plus, research by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing said effective training for nurses can include up to 50 percent simulation, like the university’s online learning plans. UW-Madison nursing students will remain below that threshold.

Still, Scott understands her students’ frustrations.

“This has been something that they have worked hard for, and they want to be able to deliver the care that they’ve had the education for,” Scott said. “We’re going to do everything possible to make sure that that happens.”

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Hanson works as a University Hospital nursing assistant while taking classes and learned from a colleague that many health care workers were struggling to balance work and child care after Gov. Tony Evers shuttered schools to slow the COVID-19 outbreak. That sparked an idea: Hanson and her fellow nursing students could watch the children, since they would remain in Madison for classes.

Hanson shared the idea on her graduating class’s Facebook page, and received a strong response. She created a spreadsheet with the names and contact information for nursing students willing to help —15 so far—and sent it to “basically every nurse and physician I know.”

Scott said she’s proud of her students for their “leadership, commitment and compassion,” adding: “It’s what Badger Nurses do!”

Hanson and some other students will volunteer their time. Others may get paid, depending on the needs of the students and hospital staff, Hanson said.

“In a time like this where everyone’s scared and uncertain of what’s going to happen next, I think it’s so important to build upon the community that we have,” Hanson said, “to find some light in this scary time.”

Johnson Crosby is among the students who signed up to help. She said the effort reminds her of why she turned to nursing in the first place.

On Thursday, UW Health also launched a survey for people willing to provide childcare for health care staff.

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