By Marlena Bermel

Life Lessons

Finishing School in a Pandemic

After spending 20 months as nursing students – six of those months amid a pandemic – 130 students will be graduating from The University of New Mexico College of Nursing, entering the workforce when New Mexicans need them most. 

When spread of the novel coronavirus forced the closure of the UNM campus, members of the summer cohort had to rapidly adjust to fully online learning, earning the admiration of their instructors.

“'Proud' is an understatement,” says Judy Liesveld, PhD, PPCNP-BC, associate dean of Education and Innovation, “These students will go down in history.” 

Student Hannah Knudson had planned on an engineering career, but felt a calling to become a nurse after interning with an oral surgeon. “With the pandemic it was difficult, because nursing school is hard enough, but adjusting to a new learning platform as well was challenging,” she says. 

Despite the difficulties, the graduates feel that the pandemic has taught them valuable lessons that will make them better nurses.  

“It’s an opportunity to learn about how to handle stress and how to mitigate those stresses to stay healthy,” says nursing student Matthew Sarazin. He enlisted in the Army at 17 and was deployed twice during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He went on to a career as a firefighter and EMT, and it was the medical part of the job that made him want to expand his scope of practice.  

For many students, one of the lessons that came from this experience was a renewed emphasis on self-care. Usual outlets, such as spending time with friends and family and other social gatherings, were prohibited. Students had to figure out how to balance school and life in a whole new away. 

They found power in the Pack. Using hashtags like #stayflexible and #staypositive, they shared messages of positivity and strength to stay connected as a class and support one another.

Nursing students come from all walks of life. Some are high school graduates who enter college right away. Yet others are starting on their second or third career. But all say they entered the profession to help others – to be the person who is counted on in a crisis or who can help others become the healthiest versions of themselves.

“The summer 2020 class has shown resiliency and perseverance to push through a global pandemic while finishing nursing school,” Liesveld says. “They will no doubt have the grit, education and passion to make this world a healthier place.”

Categories: College of Nursing, Diversity, Education, News You Can Use, Top Stories