UTEP nursing students set to graduate during COVID-19 pandemic

El Paso News
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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Twenty-five nursing students from the University of Texas at El Paso are expected to receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing after completing their clinical training in El Paso hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a UTEP press release, the soon to be graduates are part of a group of 75 nursing students who will be earning their degrees on May 16, 2020. The graduating class also includes 19 students who participated in virtual clinical experiences, and 30 students who finished their on-site experiences before the pandemic. 

“This unprecedented time in nursing education has presented us with unique challenges and allowed our faculty and students the opportunity to explore innovative solutions,” said School of Nursing Dean Leslie Robbins, Ph.D. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has altered nursing education in some significant ways, the UTEP School of Nursing continues to focus on access and excellence for all of our programs.”

Although students in the first three semesters of the UTEP nursing program were released from their clinical obligations in late March, seniors in their final semester were given the options to complete their clinical training at a later date, via virtual simulation or at the hospitals in order to graduate in May. 

Students who opted completing their clinical rotations at hospitals worked at the University Medical Center, El Paso Children’s Hospital, Del Sol Medical Center, Las Palmas Medical Center and the Hospitals of Providence were they were restricted from attending to patients who were suspected of having COVID-19 and had to strictly adhere to safety protocols. 

On the other hand, students who completed virtual clinical experiences participated in clinical scenarios that were designed by the School of Nursing to build on their critical thinking skills and clinical judgment, including scenarios that centered on the coronavirus pandemic.

“The value of the exercise is immediate but also has long-term effects as these future graduate nurses will be dealing with this virus as they enter the nursing profession,” said Laura Rodriguez, DNP, associate dean of the undergraduate nursing program.

UTEP says the students will be receiving their degrees as scheduled, with the exception of hosting their May 2020 ceremonies in the fall. 

National Nurses Week is traditionally celebrated on May 6-12, but this year the American Nurses Association has expanded the week to the entire month of May to expand opportunities to elevate and celebrate nursing amid their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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