When NewYork-Presbyterian (NYP) – one of the world's largest hospitals and ranked the best in New York City by U.S. News & World Report – needed support for the COVID-19 patient surge this winter, St. Francis College's nursing students answered the call immediately.
Fifteen junior and senior baccalaureate nursing students signed on for part-time jobs as student nursing assistants, and another eight first-year students and sophomores as nursing department runners. They are assisting staffs in NewYork-Presbyterian Queens and Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, as well as in NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, four of the seven NYP hospital locations in New York City.
The students typically work one or two eight- or 12-hour shifts each week for a 12-week assignment. Their presence helps ensure NYP's nurses effectively respond to the increased patient load triggered by the COVID pandemic.
"During the slump [in COVID-19 cases] in the summer, [NewYork-Presbyterian] created a new staffing model [for the anticipated COVID-19 increase in the fall], so nurses could take on a slightly bigger staffing load with student nurse worker support," said Susan Chin, Ph.D., RN, NNP-BC, Program Director, School Affiliations at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. "A colleague in our talent acquisition department said 'I'm hearing really good things about St. Francis College. Let's reach out to them.'"
Heights Medical Center – where it conducts nursing clinical experiences as part of its nursing academic curriculum – it had no such pre-existing relationship with NYP.
"Our nursing students have responded to the pandemic like the nurses and nursing students did in NYC more than one hundred years ago with the flu of 1918," said Patricia Facquet, Ph.D.(c), MSPH, MEdN, RN, Department of Nursing Chair and Assistant Professor of Nursing. "The fact that so many students responded almost instantaneously when NYP asked for their help signals just how committed our students are to ensuring all New Yorkers who need medical care receive it."
The students filling NYP nursing assistant roles – all of whom had prior clinical experience – directly help nurses care for patients. They began their assignments after NYP included SFC among the eight area nursing schools it contacted in December 2020, seeking qualified student workers for those roles.
The runners – who did not have prior clinical experience – provide support services to nursing staffs, including by delivering supplies between units and stocking supply carts. They started work after NYP put out a request to those same eight schools in January 2021.
"I am a runner and I love every second of it. It's given me a lot of hands-on information," said SFC nursing student Meaghen Shevlin '23, who started her job at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens in early February 2021, her first time working in a hospital. "This experience makes me realize how much I want to help people. It made me realize how passionate I am to do this work for the rest of my life."
The paid NYP positions provide SFC nursing students valuable hospital work experience at a time when many hospitals have reduced or eliminated on-site nursing clinical rotations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to jobs at NYP, SFC nursing students have also been hired by Northwell Health to administer COVID-19 vaccinations this spring. Other students are participating in a 19-week paid nursing-support program at Wyckoff that began in December 2020.
Normalcy for in-hospital and community health nursing clinical rotations is expected to resume in fall 2021. This past year, SFC students fulfilled their clinical requirements using a combination of modalities including modified in-person community health and hospital clinical experiences, virtual simulation and work in SFC's on-campus Nursing Skills and Simulation lab.
Nursing is one of SFC's most popular programs. Sixty-six students earned nursing degrees in spring 2020, tying it with management as the most awarded SFC degree at the end of the 2019-20 academic year. The College offers two nursing degree tracks: a four-year B.S. in Nursing program that prepares students to become entry-level licensed professional registered nurses (RNs), and the RN to B.S. program that enrolls students who already hold RN licenses but have not yet earned bachelor's degrees.