Student Nurses Care for Their Communities
Classes may have moved online, but you can still find many Alverno student nurses in the field.
Some Alverno students who are working toward their nursing bachelor’s degrees are simultaneously working as certified nursing assistants (CNAs). While the coronavirus pandemic may have changed their daily routines, one thing remains constant: they continue to provide skilled and compassionate care to their patients.
A few of these Alverno students agreed to share their stories with Alverno Magazine. If you know of any other Alverno health care heroes, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ready to serve
Alverno nursing student Carlisa Prospere (above, left) has wanted to be a nurse for as long as she can remember. She has also served in the Wisconsin National Guard for the past six years, performing human resources duties as needed.
Recently, her service included assisting with counting absentee ballots in Milwaukee after April’s primary election.
“It was a very special feeling,” she says of the long days sorting through ballots. “You realize you’re doing something that’s bigger than you and making sure people’s voices are heard.”
Now, Prospere’s professional goals and her military service have united in her newest assignment: training to care for the COVID-19 patients who may eventually arrive at the Alternate Care Facility at Wisconsin State Fair Park.
The facility, a joint effort by the military, by state and local governments and private health care providers, was rapidly constructed in the park’s Expo Center. Its purpose is to house patients in the event hospitals’ capacity to care for patients suffering from the coronavirus is stretched past the breaking point.
The facility may not be needed, but if it is, Prospere has earned temporary certification as a CNA and is ready to step in.
“My job will be checking on patients, taking vitals, and doing whatever the nurses need me to do,” she says. “We have already worked on preparing and stocking materials, and making sure every room is equipped with what it needs.”
While her new assignment was a bit nerve-wracking at first, Prospere, who expects to graduate from Alverno in May 2021, found her confidence.
“I’m comfortable talking to patients because of everything that I’ve learned at Alverno and my clinicals. I’m comfortable taking vitals. I’ve done it a million times,” she says. “I’m going to get education and experience from this that I can’t get anywhere else. This is another way to prepare me for my career and what I want to do.”
Life in the hot zone
Emily Raschig (above, center) is an Alverno nursing student and a CNA who works as an emergency room tech at a Milwaukee-area hospital. Before the pandemic started, a typical 12-hour shift included starting IVs, checking patients’ vitals and assisting doctors with such procedures as intubation — all within the natural chaos and fast-paced environment of an ER.
Today, however, no one can pass through the ER doors without being screened by a nurse for a fever and other coronavirus symptoms. The ER itself is divided into the “cold zone” and “hot zone.” Those displaying symptoms of the virus are diverted to the hot zone.
“We still do the same skills for the most part, except we have to wear a lot more protective equipment,” Raschig says of the ER’s new normal. A specially trained employee is available to make sure all those who enter the hot zone are wearing the appropriate PPE and wearing it correctly. And techs like herself no longer assist with intubations, because such procedures could send virus particles into the air.
Even with all the precautions, the job can be scary and stressful. But Raschig, who expects to earn her nursing degree from Alverno in December, copes by exercising and enjoying as much time outside as she can. Ultimately, she knows that her work in the ER makes a real difference in people’s lives.
“I get to help a lot of different people on their worst days. That’s the part I like the best, making a positive impact,” she says.
Welcoming new life
Lexi Klatt (above, right) has worked as a CNA in Waukesha Memorial Hospital’s labor and delivery unit since last fall, after spending two years in the hospital’s oncology/hematology unit. She expects to graduate from Alverno’s nursing program in December.
Klatt’s work in labor and delivery covers a range of responsibilities. A typical shift, she says, could include anything from “helping a new mom who is struggling to breastfeed, monitoring the newborn’s vitals after a Cesarean section, in a vaginal delivery handing tools to the doctor, assisting with a circumcision, doing screenings on the babies, admitting patients and answering the phones, or cuddled up in the nursery with a sleepy baby.”
Babies, of course, are not deterred by a global pandemic, so Klatt’s day-to-day work covers the same tasks, but with additional rules and procedures.
“When we arrive to work, we get screened for symptoms and have our temperature taken,” she says. “Before leaving the locker room, we have to make sure we are wearing a mask and a face shield.”
Another change? Visitor restrictions to protect the health of mothers, babies and hospital employees. Antepartum patients and those in labor are allowed one support person, while postpartum patients can’t have any visitors.
“One example I can share is that we had a postpartum mother who was readmitted to our unit for high blood pressure. She was breastfeeding her week-old infant at home but because of the visitor restrictions, her husband and baby were not allowed on our unit,” she explains. “I took formula to her husband and spent 30 minutes with him outside teaching him all there is to know about formula feeding a baby and reassuring him that he, alone, could do it without his wife, and to call us with any questions. I just wanted him to know that we all understand it’s a difficult time, but we are here to help.”
During this challenging time, Klatt turns to laughter and jokes to cope with the stress. Her family and fiancé motivate her to keep going. So, too, does her Alverno community.
“Online schooling was a challenge for me at first because I like the structure and accountability of a face-to-face class has for me,” she says. “One thing that really helped me keep pushing forward was the motivation and encouragement I received from my professor Ann VanEerden, who has been a light in the darkness for me. I cannot thank her enough! All of my professors are going the extra mile to make sure each student is successful.”