Touro’s Nursing Students Rise Up to Help

At a time when nurses throughout the country remain at great personal risk because of COVID-19, the students in the School of Nursing (SON) are answering the call to help where they are needed most, acting lightning quick to help test the community.

Lauren Tabora, MSN student testing at the Fairgrounds
Lauren Tabora, MSN student testing at the Fairgrounds

“Solano County Public Health emailed us on a Friday, and after making several calls, by Tuesday students were working with them on the Fairgrounds,” said Margaret Pay, MSN, RN, CNL, Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing.

Although the School of Nursing has held community health projects with Solano County Public Health before, Ms. Pay stressed that assisting the COVID-19 testing has been integral for both the county and the community.

For the student who volunteered to lead her peers in organizing the testing, Lauren Tabora, RN, her very start in nursing is being forged in the era of COVID-19.

The Master of Science in Nursing student’s first day on the job as a registered nurse happened to coincide with the state’s shelter in place order, a surprise that didn’t faze the new grad from testing the symptomatic in the community project.

“On my first day at the ER, everyone welcomed me and told me to just go with the flow, that this isn’t normal for the ER, not that we know when normal will start up again,” she reflected. The nurse stressed that her experience in the military has helped keep her calm and focused when dealing with patients who are suspected to have COVID-19.

The nursing students volunteer to test with the county about twice a week for a few hours at a time, processing about 40 patients each session. By appointment only, visitors remain in their cars and are carefully directed on how to administer the nasopharyngeal swab on themselves.

“Some people are a little shocked when they find out they have to do it themselves,” added Ms. Tabora, “but after giving more guidance, most know how, although it is pretty uncomfortable.”

“People are asking me, ‘Aren’t you scared? You’re pretty much in their faces,” she said. “But with the appropriate PPE…I’ve felt pretty protected.”

Beginning Monday, May 4th, nursing students will also start Project Roomkey with the City of Vallejo, which enables those who are unhoused to self-isolate in hotel rooms during the pandemic.

Through to August, 18 students who are working nurses will provide daily wellness checks on those who have been divided by symptom and susceptibility.

“The more we expose our students to what we call these non-traditional clinical opportunities, the more cultural humility they develop or more well rounded clinicians they become,” said Michelle Bunker-Alberts, DNP, Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing who is leading the project.

The complications of life in the pandemic have been especially hard for those who live in curbside communities, stressed. Dr. Bunker-Alberts.

Many of the locations where a person can freely access water or make a few dollars to eat for the day have closed. And for most, distancing themselves from others would put them at personal risk.

“I think what I’m hoping for and what I’m seeing in Vallejo is the commitment to meet people where they’re at,” said Dr. Bunker-Alberts, who also runs a nonprofit to supporting the unhoused in Alameda County.. “The intention is to be really inclusive, and I’ve not always seen that in these situations, but I’m definitely seeing that here.”