The pandemic has presented Suffolk County Community College Nursing students with a unique way to gain required practical health care experience. When the State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor mandated COVID-19 testing of students who attend classes on the college’s campuses, the College Associate Dean of the School of Nursing established an innovative program utilizing nursing students skills to conduct COVID-19 testing on the College’s campuses.
“When mandatory testing became a reality, we were faced with a difficult decision,” noted Interim College President Louis Petrizzo, “divert staff from required duties or hire additional staff during a budget crisis. Dean Cheryl Schaffer’s innovative solution not only saved the College money and resources but created an educational benefit for nursing students, providing real world public health experience in the midst of a pandemic and doing it safely and smartly.”
“We were very happy to answer the call to help Suffolk County Community College with the Chancellor’s mandate for COVID testing on our campuses,” added College Associate Dean of the School of Nursing Cheryl Shaffer.
Typically, nursing students would earn clinical hours by conducting patient assessments in hospitals throughout the county. But, as COVID cases rose across Long Island, in-hospital clinical practicums halted last spring.
“The nursing students are performing the testing and learning about infection control, diagnostic testing, and documentation and it’s giving them some autonomy, that they would not have necessarily gotten in other clinical settings, to resolve issues, clinical reasoning and make some decisions to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID,” Shaffer stated.
As of November 10, the College’s SUNY mandated pooled saliva testing program has collected 3,381 samples, two of which yielded positive results.
“This is a unique community health experience to be able to experience and be students during such an unprecedented time where we have a lot of challenges to overcome. It’s really great to be part of the solution and to help as a nursing student,” said nursing student Sarah Santiago.
“The COVID-19 student testing centers on Suffolk’s campuses are a testament to the leadership and capabilities that nurses bring to the clinical setting every day,” noted Interim College President Petrizzo. “I’m proud of our students, faculty and staff whose teamwork successfully launched our program.”