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Students at the University of California Irvine Gross School of Nursing made good use of their downtime by paying virtual visits to non-COVID patients at the UCI Medical Center. Between May 4 and their June 13 commencement, 45 iPad-wielding undergrads and graduates took part in the UCI Health Virtual Visitor Project, working in pairs to make bedside Zoom visits.

Virtual visits from sympathetic nursing students brought real-life comfort to isolated patients. One non-COVID patient, Cristian Lopez, was being treated for injuries in a devastating motorcycle accident. Facing the prospect of a year of recovery and physical therapy after five surgeries, he was feeling alone and vulnerable when the Virtual Visitors reached out: “I got a little emotional because I’m still undergoing a lot of trauma, but they made me feel that I had good energy, that I’m on the right path. They were very kind. They just allowed me to talk, which made me feel good.… There’s something special about this place. They really take care of people.” He was deeply moved by his visitors. “I don’t remember anything about the accident. But I’ll always remember them.”

The emotional response of Lopez was not unique, according to Daniel Bernstein, nursing manager in UCI Medical Center’s orthopedics unit: “I had a spinal surgery patient tell me after a session, ‘That was the highlight of my day.’ Then he started crying. The value of the service is that it makes patients feel better and makes [nursing students] feel as if they’re doing something important.”

The students were quick to appreciate the value of the project. In their virtual visits, they were able to connect with abilities at the very heart of the nursing profession. Student Araceli Melchor Cruz reflected: “This project reinforced how important it is to have good communication with our patients, to listen to them and to provide care not only physically but also emotionally. Personally, it was very rewarding to know that even though we were not actually at the hospital, we were able to do something for the patients.” Sahra Kakwani, another Virtual Visitor, added, “In our nursing program, one thing that we learned can be very useful for both the nurses and the patients is to talk to them about anything. I think this program had so many positive results, especially in preventing patients from feeling socially isolated.”

For the full story on the UCI Health Virtual Visitor Project, click here.

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