Coronavirus: Saskatchewan Polytech nursing students call for alternatives to clinical placements amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Sask. Polytech nursing students call for alternatives to clinical placements amid COVID-19 pandemic
A dozen practical nursing students penned a letter to the institution’s administration, flagging safety concerns with their clinical placement requirements. – Mar 24, 2020

Some Saskatchewan Polytechnic students are questioning why their health is being put at risk for the sake of a hands-on learning experience.

A dozen practical nursing students penned a letter to the institution’s administration flagging safety concerns with their clinical placement requirements.

“The expectation for students to continue putting their own health at risk for the benefit of learning in a ‘unique’ environment is troubling and disappointing,” students said in a letter dated March 18.

COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into not only our student life but also our personal lives.”

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The letter highlights a number of concerns, including close contact with patients experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for students.

“[Some students were] told by unit nurses that the PPE on the unit is only to be used by unit nurses,” the letter stated.

According to the letter, there is a “massive” risk to students working on the hospitals’ frontlines if they were to get sick.

“As students, we have none of the benefits that we would have as health region employees.”

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The students are asking for alternatives to clinical placements.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic said its working directly with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to ensure the safety of its students.

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“The SHA is very supportive of these nursing students continuing in these clinical practice courses to complete the program,” according to an email statement from Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

“Students have the knowledge, training and access to the required personal protective equipment needed to continue in these placements.”

Students who are concerned have the option to suspend their practicum experience. Option are also available to limit hours spent in the hospital, according to Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

Sukhjot Samra, president of Saskatchewan Polytechnic Students’ Association, is calling for all placements to be postponed.

“While Saskatchewan Polytechnic has taken good steps to protect the students’ interest and benefit, there is always room for improvement,” Samra said.

The University of Saskatchewan pulled its nursing students out of clinical placements as of March 18 at midnight, according to Dr. Lois Berry, College of Nursing interim dean.

It was a tough decision that came down to students’ safety.

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“Every additional body around [the hospital] is an additional source of transmission,” Berry said.

Berry said there is a fine line between nursing students acting as “an extra pair of hands” and being a “draw on an organization’s resources.”

The U of S said it’s working closing with the, SHA, University of Regina and Saskatchewan Polytechnic during a “challenging situation.”

“Students want to know what’s going to happen,” Berry said. “We really don’t have the answers.”

Berry said the fourth year students have enough clinical hours to complete the program. Courses are still be offered online, but group work like labs and simulations had to be cancelled.

Berry said students’ learning will undoubtedly be affected, as nurses need to experience interacting with patients and families.

“You can’t learn nursing from reading a book or from watching a video,” Berry said.

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Saskatchewan Polytechnic said its placements will continue for the time being, but the status of clinical placements could change as the COVID-19 situation develops.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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