As the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb in Massachusetts, Curry College has partnered with Tufts Medical Center to deploy roughly 20 senior nursing students from its School of Nursing to work as junior medical providers in support of the hospital's nursing workforce.
Trained to perform as clinical care technicians, the nursing students will conduct standard patient care duties under the direction of a registered nurse as part of a float pool of staff serving the medical/surgical unit. The Curry College cohort is among the first group of nursing students in the state to begin work alongside those on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak.
"We want to be part of the solution, and Curry is uniquely positioned to help. We are a known leader in nursing education, and our size allows us to be nimble enough to respond quickly to change," says Dr. Desirée Hensel, Dean, School of Nursing.
The partnership comes at a critical time, as area hospitals manage the recent surge in coronavirus cases which totals roughly 55,000 confirmed cases this week. Massachusetts remains one of the hardest-hit states in the nation. To help sustain the nursing workforce and other front line providers, national nursing education leaders are advocating for academic-practice partnerships between healthcare facilities,' and pre-licensure registered nursing programs across the country. Similar to the Tufts-Curry partnership, the American Association of Colleges and Nursing released a recommended partnership model to encourage collaborations.
The Curry College nursing students are now working their part-time shifts, which include a 24-hour workweek in either day, night, or weekend shifts. They join fellow medical and nursing students, among others studying for careers in health professions, nationwide that are volunteering and working to care for the growing number of patients infected with the novel coronavirus. In Massachusetts, the medical schools at Harvard University, Boston University, Tufts University, and the University of Massachusetts all graduated students early to help serve area hospitals.
Presented with this opportunity, Curry senior Nursing student Matt DiMatteo '20, of Waltham, Mass., was eager to apply for the student nurse role at Tufts Medical Center. He's worked for both regional community and large urban hospitals such as Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston Children's Hospital. DiMatteo believes the new role will only add to the knowledge and skills he's gained during his clinical practice and work as a nursing assistant at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. In June, he'll take the NCLEX nursing exam to become licensed and has plans to become a nurse anesthetist.
"I don't mind going into an environment where patients have tested positive. I’ve already had some experience taking care of COVID-19 patients. Every day is a new learning experience, and I enjoy the challenge," he says. "Nursing students who are nearing completion of their programs have a lot to offer. We have been instructed and trained to recognize the symptoms of respiratory distress and have a firm foundation in communicating the needs of patients. More than anything, patients in isolation are alone and could be scared, its up to us to provide compassionate care, it’s the reason I wanted to be a nurse.”
The new collaboration builds on a partnership established by Curry College and Tufts Medical Center in 2018 when the two organizations formed a Dedicated Education Unit. The DEU is a newer model of clinical nursing education that pairs one or two student nurses with an experienced staff nurse, or Clinical Scholar, to teach and mentor for a full semester.