Pandemic tough, LSCO prepares new nurses
Last updated 9/8/2020 at 9:54pm
“Why not?” is the answer Cord Tucker gives when asked why he wanted to become a nurse.
It’s representative of the Lamar State College Orange nursing students of 2020, a year that will be forever remembered by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic that has confounded scientists and shut down economies across the globe.
It also emphasized the constant need for more and more nurses on the front line in the healthcare community.
“In my opinion,” continues Tucker, a third-generation nurse, “nursing is one of the most rewarding jobs out there.”
A Buna resident, Tucker is one of more than a hundred healthcare students at LSCO.
More than 50 graduated in August from the vocational nursing program, having completed the educational requirements to become an LVN, licensed vocational nurse.
LSCO also offers an RN transition program for LVNs who want to upgrade their credentials. Additionally, the downtown Orange campus offers certification as emergency medical technicians (EMT), pharmacy technicians and dental assistants.
After wrapping up course requirements, the grads must pass national licensing board exams to earn the initials after their names.
Traditionally, graduation is celebrated with a pinning ceremony open to family and friends, but because of restrictions against large gatherings, the ceremony was a walkthrough instead, observing plenty of social distancing.
COVID-19 caused a lot of changes this year.
“It made you work harder for what you wanted,” said Jessica Dumas of Lumberton, a former Navy quartermaster and veteran of two Middle East deployments.
“You think, ‘Is this really worth it for all the stress I’m under?’ But we had to do it. They needed us.”
Normally, nursing students attend lecture classes two days per week and spend up to three days a week providing bedside patient care at hospitals, nursing homes and community health clinics and doctors’ offices.
“We had to transfer our lectures to an online format. We were able to lecture live with students online and we recorded lectures so they could watch on their own,” said Leah Anne McGee, Associate Dean of Nursing at LSCO.
“It was helpful, because when the community had to shut down, the ones already working as nurses had to work additional shifts.”
For the ones not already employed as LVNs or medical assistants, the hands-on “clinical” training opportunities were definitely different.
“In the spring, all the clinical facilities shut down to nursing students, but the Texas Board of Nursing allowed us to deliver a lot of clinical contact online or virtual. All of the departments at LSCO have used technology in the past, but it became so much more valuable during the COVID environment.
“We were able to adjust with just a few hiccups.”
Victoria Leach, an LSCO student from Vinton, La., worked at Oakwood Manor, a long-term care rehab facility in Vidor, during the spring.
“It’s chaotic. The rules change every day. Policies change every day. You get screened at the door. It’s constantly changing.
“But it was worth it. It made you become a better student.”
“It taught me more discipline,” Tucker said. “But all our teachers have done a phenomenal job.”
McGee said her teachers and students made the best of a rocky situation.
“I was amazed at the resiliency of our staff, students and community,” she said. “I think we all came out stronger. Changed, but stronger, because of this.”
“You hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” Leach said.
“You’re always going to have roadblocks to hurdle over in life,” Dumas said. “Just don’t stop until you get there. Just persevere.”