Amy Levi admits she was very concerned when COVID-19 first arrived.“I’ll be honest with you, in the spring, there was so much we didn’t know and didn’t understand about COVID-19,” says Levi, a Mary B. Jackson assistant professor in the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga School of Nursing.
“I was a lot more nervous in the spring than I am now because I feel like—while we don’t know everything about COVID—we are much better informed. Applying what we know in teaching our students, I feel safer.
“Knowing the unknowns of what we now know, I do feel more comfortable having students in the hospital. Sometimes, I even feel safer in the hospital than I do out in public because we know it exists and the students know it exists.”
Levi, who works with senior students in their acute/critical care rotation and their preceptorship, calls the whole COVID-19 experience a “learning time for all of us.” Part of her instruction is taking students into an environment where there they may come in contact with infected patients.
Their clinicals take place at hospitals across town.
“We’re at Parkridge. We’re at Erlanger, Erlanger East. We’re at Memorial and Memorial Hixson. So all the major facilities that take COVID patients,” Levi said.
“Any patient has the potential to carry the flu or COVID. These things do happen, so you have to be safe,” says Levi, who received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing UTC in 2008 and began teaching at the University in 2013.
“You’re constantly applying those safety procedures and reminding students that anybody could have anything. And the students really get it.
“Do they find that N95 masks are uncomfortable? Yes. But do they know that’s what they’ll be wearing when they are working full-time as nurses? Yes.”
In contrast to the on-the-cusp-of-employment senior students that Levi supervises, UTC Senior Lecturer Kelli Hand teaches fundamental students at Memorial Glenwood. After staying in the on-campus skills lab for the beginning portion of fall semester, she has the opportunity to introduce her nursing school students to the hospital environment.
“I’m a ‘silver lining, always looking for the positive’ type,” Hand says, “and I’m excited that we’re still able to have those experiences for them and to go in and do that. It’s a unique time.
“Think about it: Who else gets to go to nursing school during a pandemic? They know that their skills are very valuable and that there’s going to be a demand for their services when they finish.”
Hand, who joined the UTC faculty in 2004 and received her Doctor of Nursing Practice from the institution in 2014, spends her clinical time with students on Medical/Surgery floors, known as Med/Surg in the medical world. While the risk of exposure is always there, especially since fundamental students also are helping administer flu shots. Hand doesn’t worry that the they’re being placed in harm’s way.
“I feel very confident that we are keeping them as safe as we possibly can,” she says. “We’re doing everything we can to limit their exposure to any diseases, but that’s what we always do. Maybe we’re just being more vigilant in what we’re doing, but yes, I feel like we’re always trying to keep our students safe.”