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Since March, COVID-19 has been affecting our lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined just one year ago. Between quarantines, wearing masks, using hand sanitizer, and the like, our lives have been completely changed. Imagine what it’s like to attend nursing school during COVID-19 right now.

Mikayla Shkedy, a first-year nursing student at NYU in the Nursing Accelerated BSN program, answered our questions about what it’s like and how she’s faring.

Attending nursing school during COVID-19 is so different from any other time in recent history. Explain to readers what this is like. Are all your classes virtual? Do you have to meet at certain times? Or do you log into your classwork whenever you want to?

I have didactic lectures over Zoom twice a week; I have a clinical every other week, and simulation labs, which are essentially practicing medicine on mannequins. Because of COVID-19, clinicals are the same, but simulations are cut in half: the first half goes in for half an hour, and then the second class goes in. We watch a lot of videos. We also do online virtual assessments, which I don’t love. But it’s cool that we can actually listen to hearts and lungs virtually and interact with virtual patients.

We meet on Thursdays and Fridays in person, but Mondays and Wednesdays are synchronous classes over Zoom. We do have many assignments. We have to log in addition to attending, and all lectures are recorded for review.

What has been easy to handle in terms of schooling and classwork? What have been some challenges that you and other nursing students have faced?

It felt like we were thrown into it. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the workload—as well as the sheer quantity of information on each exam. Obviously concepts we’re familiar with from before—like diabetes—were easier to grasp. But now we have to understand them at a much deeper level. We’re expected to understand a lot, which is a little bit jarring right off the bat. But after a few weeks, we got the hang of it, and everything after was reinforcement. It’s cool to see what we’ve learned online come to life on real patients.

Have any of your classes been in person? If not, what have instructors done to work around this?

I have had a few classes in person, but we do rely on a lot of videos and demonstrations of blood pressure, catheter insertion, or medication dispensing.

Do you have study groups? What about class discussions? Explain how this works.

They assign projects, so I have gotten to know my classmates a little over Zoom. We also meet each other in clinical, so there is some social interaction. At the beginning of one of my classes, we go to breakout rooms, so there is some discussion element. Not much though.

What have you enjoyed about nursing school, even though it’s been quite different?  

I don’t have much to compare it to as a first year, but I enjoy the simulations. It’s definitely harder to learn online, but I feel that I’m learning the same amount as I’d otherwise be learning. I love the patient interaction. I love going in and speaking and learning about people, and I’m constantly reminded why I want to be a nurse. I also like looking at a patient and understanding the intricacies of what is going on in a body. It makes the hours of work feel worthwhile.

What should nurses keep in mind to have the most success in attending school right now?

It’s hard. And it’s stressful sometimes. But that’s okay. You have to remind yourself what your goal is. Try to see the hard parts as just a path to getting where you need to. If it would be easier, would you really trust yourself to make the important decisions you need to make to get where you want to be? Just look ahead and keep pushing forward. 

What would you say to prospective nursing students who may be apprehensive about attending because of the changes in learning? Any words of encouragement?   

As someone who struggled over whether to start during the pandemic or to wait a year, I realized that at the end of the day these programs wouldn’t be offered if they didn’t think the education would be the same. Lives are in your hands, and a subpar education would simply not be acceptable.

This is certainly a curveball, but life doesn’t always go as planned. If this is what you want, keep moving forward and don’t let the pandemic get in the way. Also, we don’t know when life will be normal or what normal will be. You’ve got to live, and try to stay safe. 

Is there anything else you think is important for our readers to know?

Even though nursing school is hard and scary, I’m grateful to NYU for making this transition as seamless as possible, and I don’t regret any of my decisions to start. Anything you want is hard work. But even when I’m struggling, I know it’s for a goal I love, and I know I’ll be happy with my decision. Especially now, it’s important that these schools are open and doing what they can to prepare the next generation of frontline essential workers.

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