Listen to this article.
Voiced by Amazon Polly
I got my nursing degree in 2020.

I am an Emergency Department nurse and, in the Fall of 2017, I entered graduate school for my Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.  I knew it would bring challenges and allow for me to grow as a nurse but what was to come was unforeseen.  Maintaining a balance of working 12-hour shifts as the Charge Nurse in the Emergency Department and adjuncting for a university’s nursing program, I had to keep a strict schedule and manage my time perfectly while in school.  I had everything mapped out; hours set aside for work and days where I would attend classes, clinical rotations, and meetings with my study group.  I had a goal and I was very calculated in my approach.  Or so I thought.

In the Spring of 2020, our cohort entered the second to last semester of our graduate curriculum.  With the end in sight, it was an exciting time.  During the early weeks of the spring semester, there was a buzz that was generating about a pandemic spreading throughout the United States and the rest of the world.  As our nation watched cases of Covid-19 begin to ramp up, safety measures were enacted and ultimately all in-person activities and gatherings were halted.  Overnight, everything came to a complete stop.  Suddenly, no more students were allowed in the clinical setting, and classes were briefly paused before moving to an on-line format.  This sudden change brought challenges, worry, and uncertainty about the future to our cohort. 

There was no way to make it through 2020 and graduate without displaying the key principles of flexibility, patience, and perseverance.  Throughout the semester, and during the early days of the Covid-19 response, things seemed to change every minute of every day.  We felt such uncertainty at what was to come.  Will we have enough clinical hours to meet our school’s requirements and ultimately sit for our board exam?  Will our evidence-based quality improvement projects be able to be implemented at our local healthcare facilities?  Will we be able to graduate on time?  These were just a few of the thoughts that consumed my interactions with our cohort.

Patrick Nobles, DNP, FNP-BC, CNL receives a Nurse of the Year award at University of Florida Health.
Patrick M. Nobles accepting a Nurse of the Year award at University of Florida Health in 2020.

I was fortunate and was able to complete the bulk of my project during the previous term, before COVID-19.  Others in my cohort were not as lucky.  Many facilities that once agreed to allow students to implement their project put it on hold once COVID-19 arrived.  Ultimately, those who were unable to launch their projects ended up delaying their graduation until the Fall term.  The hardships and frustrations that resulted because of this delay felt deflating.  It seemed that all of the hard work, long hours of studying, and time invested into ones’ career had suddenly been filled with too many unknowns. 

See also
New Citywide Nurse Residency Program Will Help Retention In New York Hospitals

But nurses are resilient and we adapt to the challenges we face.  Even in the midst of a national crisis where burnout and exhaustion affected many on the front lines, nurses prevailed.  When talking with my cohort, after their successful (though delayed) graduation, themes started to emerge.  We took this time, where we were forced to slow down, to reconnect with ourselves and our families.  With much of society closed or restricted, sharing time together at home or outside in the yard resulted in more meaningful interactions.  The focus on ones’ wellness and the often-forgotten self-care that many of us nurses put off was all of a sudden present.  It brought our attention to developing a much better work-life balance and helped reinforced our commitment to the profession and finishing our degrees.  

Our cohort remained close throughout the pandemic and ultimately held one-another accountable for meeting the goals that we originally set out to accomplish.  We made sure to continue our studies, and pass our final university exams. We supported each other as we prepared for our board exams and applied for licensure. 

Throughout this time, we built a bond with each other and continued to “raise the bar of expectations” even though we were geographically distant from each other.  We challenged each other to do better and to be better.  Of course, the hardship of not being able to have our graduation in person and walk across the stage together was difficult, but our perseverance and determination to join the class of 2020 was not deterred. So, cheers to everyone in the class of 2020 and to those who helped fight on the front lines with us!

Patrick M. Nobles, DNP, FNP-BC, CNL
Latest posts by Patrick M. Nobles, DNP, FNP-BC, CNL (see all)
See also
In Mental Health Crises, a 911 Call Now Brings a Mixed Team of Helpers — And Maybe No Cops
Share This