Eight weeks ago, Piedmont Technical College President Ray Brooks’s administration foresaw the coronavirus pandemic spreading onto, or near, its campuses and leading to the suspension of face-to-face instruction — something that proved correct, with the college announcing on March 20 that students would finish the school year online.
Registered practical nursing and licensed practical nursing students were not held back by the college’s decision because they got to take their simulation labs and do their hospital observations earlier than normal. Brooks described the coronavirus pandemic as “our generation’s World War II moment” and said nurses and other health care professionals are the heroes.
RPN and LPN nursing students increased the amount of time they spent in clinical settings to complete as many checkoffs and labs earlier in the semester because administrators anticipated the college potentially having to move to a different operating environment. At the time, the administration did not know what the other operating environment would be, but Brooks said the college’s sizeable online presence made leadership comfortable delivering the theory and didactic portions of the curriculum online.
The college has 45 RPNs and 30 LPNs finishing this semester. The students will still need to pass their finals and licensure exams before they begin working in hospitals.
Certified nursing assistant and veterinary technician students at the college’s Newberry campus did not get to take their labs early. The college is looking at ways to bring these students on campus for their labs, or even extending the semester until the campus is safe. Brooks maintains it is important that the college does not do anything to possibly expose faculty or students to any disease. The school is also looking at options for students who do not feel safe being on campus to complete their labs.
PTC offers a gamut of health care programs — including evasive and non-invasive cardiology, respiratory, RPN, LPN, surgical technology and EMT certification. Administrators concentrated on students who had to complete their labs to graduate on time, and needing LPNs and RPNs during the coronavirus pandemic also played a factor.
“We had people ready to go and were getting close. We wanted to make sure we got them out there,” Brooks said. “If hospitals get in a crunch, existing health care folks are overwhelmed, be assured that we are putting a group of well trained, qualified people out in the workforce to take care of us.”