Seniors graduating with healthcare-related degrees at the University of Connecticut ranging anywhere from nursing to molecular and cell biology are preparing to enter the workforce during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
Many majors that require clinical placements were required to transition to an online format in March in adherence with guidance from public health departments and the Centers for Disease Control, which has added to the anxiety some graduates, like outgoing nursing major Sarah Innes, are feeling about immediately entering their field.
“To say we are scared would be an understatement. On top of being scared that we might screw up (which is 100% going to happen), we now have to also worry about the health risk we are putting ourselves and our loved ones at,” Innes said. “With clinical transitioned to the online format, like every other course, we were unable to complete the hands-on experience that is so vital to the development of nursing skills.”
In July, Innes will be starting her career as a registered nurse at Yale New Haven Hospital on a neuroscience/epilepsy unit. She said entering the field as a new nurse is already nerve-wracking enough without a pandemic also occurring.
“The emotions and ideas that surround being a new graduate nurse are complex, we are all so excited to start this humbling career, but that excitement is mixed with tremendous amounts of nervousness and fear,” Innes said. “The thought of entering the healthcare field and being an independent nurse was terrifying enough before we were bombarded by a crippling global pandemic, so you can only imagine how we are feeling now.”
Abigail O’Keefe, a senior nursing major, agreed that the thought of entering the medical field with a lack of in-person preparation is daunting but said UConn has done the best it can to prepare the next generation of nurses for their careers.
“Reading case studies and textbook chapters over video chat is entirely different than caring for actual patients,” O’Keefe said. “All of the graduating seniors have been deprived of the opportunities and experiences we would have had in the hospital setting for the second half of the semester, but ultimately UConn has prepared us well enough to overcome this obstacle and become great nurses.”
Sarah Anderson, a senior majoring in medical laboratory science, said she is nervous about the upcoming months and what they may mean for job availability and clinical training given that the pandemic has halted many programs.
“My clinical got canceled to keep us safe, and now I am heading straight into the place they didn’t want us to go,” Anderson said. “I do not have a job lined up at the moment because no hospitals in my area are willing to take on new grads since they are losing so much money and with the virus don’t have much time to teach.”
Sara Tavakoli is a senior majoring in molecular and cell biology. In a few weeks, she will be working in a lab associated with Harvard University once research ramp-up initiatives begin. She said she is nervous to be entering the field but is confident in her abilities to keep herself and others safe.
“I feel as if I will be okay as long as I take the proper safety precautions especially while taking the train. I have been home long enough and do not mind putting myself in the middle of all this since it is what I will be doing as a healthcare provider in the future,” Tavakoli said. “As a young adult, I must also be cautious of my actions so that I am not putting older generations at risk such as my parents.”
Lauren Velleca, a senior nursing major, is preparing for her NCLEX and registered nurse position at Yale New Haven Hospital. She said she is thankful for the opportunity to make a difference in the medical field no matter how difficult it gets.
“I am extremely grateful to have this opportunity in the midst of a pandemic,” Velleca said. “I am itching to get out there and work alongside fellow healthcare workers to save lives.”
Innes said in her training as a nurse, she has learned to be flexible and to think on her feet, both of which are skills she will carry with her as she and many other UConn graduates embark on their careers.
“Nursing is so unpredictable and everyday poses a new challenge, but you adapt, you put others first, and you get the job done no matter what,” Innes said. “That is what we have been taught and it is what I plan to do as I begin my career this July.”
Taylor Harton is the associate news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.