Alexis Moros (left) and Vickie Phan were among a group of Roxborough nursing students who were pressed into crisis service as their hospital handled COVID-19 cases. They were among a class of 77 students who graduated on June 19.

Roxborough Hospital’s nursing students step up to help during crisis in the Fight Against COVID-19

As the impact of COVID-19 was being felt throughout the Philadelphia area over the last three months, students at Roxborough School of Nursing stepped up to lend a hand.

From the beginning of March, seniors in the Roxborough nursing program volunteered at Roxborough Memorial Hospital to help anyway they could, from answering phones, calming patients, assisting staff with COVID-19 screenings, and easing the minds of patients experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or anxiety related to the pandemic.

“The students were quick learners and were able to use their critical thinking skills,” said Roxborough School of Nursing Dean Paulina Marra-Powers RN, EdD, MSN. “There are some things you can’t teach, like empathic listening, and these students did really well.”

The volunteers came at an opportune time as beds at Roxborough filled with COVID-19 patients, overwhelming staff and leaving the hospital with immense challenges.

“The students stepped up when they learned the organization needed nursing students to act in extern roles,” said Academic Coordinator and Nursing Instructor Louise Augenbraun RN, MSN.  “They needed to multitask, and deal with some very worried and scared patients. They were able to calm nerves, and they knew what to say to the patients and their families to ease their minds, especially when asked about recent businesses that were closing in the area.”

Marra-Powers said the experience was invaluable for the future nurses.

“I think they are gaining a new appreciation for public health and what public health means,” she said. “And it’s reflective of the level of civic engagement they have.”

Nursing student volunteers said their training at Roxborough School of Nursing prepared them to help during an unprecedented public health emergency. 

“When Roxborough Memorial Hospitals cases increased, I just jumped in and answered their calls for assistance,” said nursing student Nicoletta Carson 24, of Roxborough.

Nursing student Vickie Phan, 26 of Northeast Philadelphia, was working in different sections of the hospital based on staffing needs each day.

“The pandemic is obviously something that has changed the entire world, so as many helping hands will help any department in need,” she said. “I’m glad to be a part of it. It’s a great start to a good career as far as helping people and saving lives.”

Nursing student Zhino Rasheed 36, of Philadelphia who moved here from Sulaymaniya, Iraq, said she was overwhelmed at first.

“As I helped with cases, I realized, yes, I was prepared,” she said. “The nice thing about being a senior nursing student is we have seen all varieties of patients and medical treatments.  In this case, it wasn’t so much about medicine, but about interacting with different patients and staff, just like we did in our clinical rotations.”

While she is still applying to job offers in the Philadelphia area, Alexis Moros, 27 of Philadelphia, said she is not worried about working around patients with COVID-19. In fact, she actually wishes she could head north to a state like New York, where the need for nurses is greater than here at home.

“I’m an eager nursing student and I’m ready to get started. I want to help where I’m most needed,” she said.

 “I’ve never worked anywhere where the students are so engaged,” Dr. Marra-Powers said. “Most of them do between 24 to 100 hours of community service each semester, from community senior center events, staffing a first aid tent at the Roxborough Bike Marathon and Roxborough Day, to creating food baskets for the community. We have amazing students.”

For more information about the nursing program, visit https://www.roxboroughmemorial.com/School-of-Nursing.aspx or call 215-487-4344.

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