Joyce University has taken a proactive approach to nursing education during the COVID-19 pandemic. As colleges adapted to social distancing protocols, Joyce students were gaining valuable clinical experience volunteering in the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), a federal network of volunteers sponsored by the Salt Lake County Health Department that was actively deployed throughout the Salt Lake valley to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Led by Jill Dubbelman and other dedicated faculty, Joyce’s senior capstone nursing students volunteered with the MRC, getting hands-on experience in the field with extensive PPE training and a crash course in FEMA disaster coordinating. “Students have provided numerous hours supporting quarantine sites, by giving medical care and more. These students have tested thousands of individuals across the valley and donated thousands of hours toward this response to COVID-19.” reports Bryan Lewis, emergency planner for the Salt Lake County Health Department.
He goes on to say that “the MRC task force is assisting with multiple operations, including identifying ‘COVID hot spots’ and testing these areas, offering COVID-19 testing and screening at multiple locations for free, and going to numerous long term care facilities, homeless and refugee communities and providing education, screening and testing for individuals. Other areas the task force is supporting include providing medical support at quarantine and isolation facilities for individuals who have nowhere to go.”
When COVID-19 was identified in January of 2020, Bryan Lewis knew he needed to take action quickly to get medical volunteers and supporters mobilized in response to the global health crisis. “I started quickly researching organizations and reaching out to organizations with medical programs, and one of the programs I came across was (Joyce).”
After coordinating with clinical instructor Jill Dubbelman, a plan was set in motion to mobilize the capstone nursing students into strike teams for the Medical Reserve Corps. Jill worked to quickly train the student teams in PPE and lab testing to get them prepared for work in the field. “We tested 122 homeless people our first day while testing at a day shelter. The health department and 4th street clinic could not believe we did so many in one day.” says Jill.
Between April and November, “over 77 (Joyce) students and faculty gave a combined of nearly 10,000 hours (to the MRC)” — an ever-growing number as students continue to volunteer. “The students, super excited, quickly jumped to the plate and went above and beyond and assisted in multiple medical operations such as quarantine and isolation support, and COVID-19 screening and testing.” says Bryan.
Joyce students have worked tireless hours to help fight against the spread of COVID-19. The strike teams they created have administered more than 30,000 tests, which has helped augment the medical response in quarantine and isolation facilities. They have helped improve testing capacities significantly according to Bryan, “at 1 facility we tested 500 people in under 3 hours with the students’ help, and we can now test 1 patient every 2-3 minutes per team. (Joyce) allowed us to more quickly and efficiently reach out to populations that needed us the most, such as homeless populations, without these students it would be difficult to test these populations. These students improved our testing capabilities significantly, and freed the health department up to perform other essential tasks such as contact tracing.”
When it comes to how the MRC has helped make an impact overall during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bryan says, “The Medical Reserve Corps has been instrumental in the response to COVID-19. The MRC has identified hot spots, performed screenings, provided medical support, and performed thousands of COVID-19 tests throughout the valley. Without the Medical Reserve Corps work, I do not believe we would be where we are currently…”
Above and beyond the call of duty, students are finding other ways to make life a little easier for the populations they are serving through the MRC. Nursing instructor Jill Dubbelman shared a few stories about how the students lended support, “Amanda Murdoch and others have donated clothes and crayons, coloring books and games to the shelter when they found out there were children there.” While other students like Camille Camocaho, offered to translate Spanish “and was a big help with her shelter because there were Spanish speaking patients she could help.” Even during the long hours focused on testing people throughout the Salt Lake valley, a few students lended a hand when they saw that a couple of kittens needed rescuing. Student nurses Nicole, Bret, Paige, and Stephanie “were testing at the men’s resource center at night with Bryan and they had to call in a fire department to save the kittens.”
“I really got to know my fellow classmates and instructors. I gained stronger and new relationships, which made COVID19 easier to cope with. It also taught me skills I wasn’t planning on gaining!
Although hours were required for capstone, I still volunteered with MRC after completion of hours and actually just got a job with them! It is nice to know that I can make a difference in the community.” – Mikayla Gibson, Student (ADN)
“My experience with the MRC has been eventful and unforgettable. I have learned to adapt quickly and be reliable. It has also been incredibly fun and rewarding and I have been able to form great friendships.
I have loved the autonomy of participating in the MRC and the feeling of actually doing something to improve and serve my community. It is so rewarding to know that I am contributing to the success of my state through this pandemic. Serving others is the most important part of nursing in my eyes, and I am being provided with ample opportunities to serve by being a part of the MRC.” – Alta Findlay, Student (ADN-BSN)
“It has been amazing to work with the health department and other nurses. The patients are nothing short of kind and respectful.” – Samantha Brimley, Student (ADN)
“Joining the MRC put me on the front lines of the COVID pandemic and I have enjoyed every minute of it. We work hard, we work fast and are committed to giving the best care and finding results in the most efficient manner during this time.
It’s been very enjoyable to be able to be a part of such a big part of our world history. Every day we are deployed out to test for illness, and I’m grateful every day to be a part of the medical profession. I’m very proud of the work that we all do in order to help control the spread of COVID as well as other everyday healthcare work. It has really opened my eyes to an entirely new, community-based side of healthcare.” – Anna Tremea, Student (ADN-BSN)
“It felt great to take part in such impactful work as a student, it was such an honor. We had patients and other people looking to us for answers. I felt like everything I had learned in school up that point was finally falling into place and that I could actually help people. It was so fulfilling!” – Jessica Reilly, Student (ADN)
As the pandemic continues to affect our local communities throughout Utah, Joyce and the MRC are committed to providing necessary testing and medical support to those affected by this global crisis. Through the hard work and dedication of its committed faculty, Joyce is continuing to pave the way for their capstone students to get out of the classroom and into their communities, where they can get hands-on clinical experience and gain valuable skills that will prepare them for a successful future in nursing.