Student nurses are even more motivated to serve during COVID-19

Natalie DeSouza
May 05, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the nation, nurses worldwide are coming to the frontlines of healthcare to help patients every day. Penn State student nurses, Megan Lucas and Lorrie Youngs, are among the ones helping those in need and their experiences have reinforced their passions about becoming a nurse in the first place.

Megan Lucas

Megan Lucas, nursing student at Penn State

IMAGE: Penn State
Photo of woman

Lorrie Youngs

IMAGE: Supplied

Lucas is an undergraduate student at the College of Nursing and is a pediatric nursing assistant at Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey, while Youngs is a graduate student in Penn State's World Campus who is also the continuum of care unit manager at the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services. Their jobs have had to completely evolve in the past few weeks due to the increasing pressures of current circumstances.

Q: How has your role evolved to respond to the pandemic?

LUCAS: Due to COVID-19, I have been floating around the hospital to COVID units to be an extra set of hands. I help spot doctors and nurses donning and doffing, I help get them supplies if they forget to bring something into the patient room. I watch them while they are in the patient room to ensure they are not accidentally contaminating themselves.

YOUNGS: As an essential employee for the state and working my role remotely and my response has evolved into additional duties. I am involved with two separate hotlines, one for the general public and one for medical providers. I am on the provider hotlines four nights a week from 4 to midnight. There is also a chance that I will be mandated to work at makeshifts hospital in Detroit and around the state. As a state employee, I can be mandated to go where needed.

Q: How has the pandemic impacted your view of nursing’s role in patient care?

LUCAS: This pandemic has impacted me by showing me how important the health care profession is and how much everyone cares about the patients. While it is scary to be on the front line, and putting yourself and family at risk, it has enforced my passion for wanting to help others.

YOUNGS: My view of nursing hasn't changed. I have been a nurse for over 25 years, and my passion for being a nurse is stronger than ever. Nurses have various roles during this pandemic, on the front lines and behind. Both positions are critical to patient care and treatment. Nurses behind the front lines often go unnoticed. As a nurse working behind the front line, my role looks different. I need to provide continuous communication promptly to identify emerging changes. As a manager, it is my responsibility to keep staff engaged as well as up to date on the fast pace changes during this pandemic. I am challenged with motivating team from a distance, which is one of the roles of nursing management.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you have had to face during the pandemic?

LUCAS: It has been so hard to not be able to interact with the patients and family members as much as we normally would. One of my favorite parts of nursing is getting to know the patient, and due to safety, we really have to limit our time at the bedside. I have unfortunately seen several patients pass away over the past few weeks, and it is absolutely heartbreaking to watch them die alone with no family members at the bedside.

YOUNGS: I can speak to how the COVID crisis has challenged me as a leader and as an administrator in my current position. First and foremost, it has forced me to embrace technology and to obtain different skills in managing employees remotely. I am not only managing employees to continue to achieve our objectives but also to keep a connection on a human element level during this stressful time. Another challenge is to track productivity. Daily telecommute reports, and weekly team huddles have aided with monitoring.

Q: What have you done to keep in high spirits during this difficult time of a pandemic?

LUCAS: Every day I go into work I am thankful for my health and the ability to help others. I keep saying, this pandemic is a friendly reminder to live each day to the fullest because you just don’t know when something could happen. Many of the patients I’ve seen appear young and healthy and have no past medical history yet they are really struggling. It’s scary! But knowing they need our ongoing support and care keeps you going. I think putting yourself in the patient's position and the patient’s family members position really helps you give the compassionate care you need to give; makes you still strive to go above and beyond.

YOUNGS: Currently, I schedule 1:1's with each member and huddles with the entire team twice a week via teams meeting. I have been making our team huddles light and fun. For example, I dressed up in a costume this week, I asked staff to submit a baby picture so that we can try and guess who is who, and I am planning a scavenger hunt for next week and show and tell of a collectible or a favorite item. I can see and hear the stress that my team is enduring. As a manager, I recognize when staff need additional support or need a referral for the support that I am unable to provide personally. I held a session with the team on self-care this morning. Self-care is essential, especially during a pandemic, when stress is running at an all-time high.

"We Are" stories

The “We Are” spirit is perhaps more important than ever before, and Penn Staters everywhere are coming together in new and amazing ways. During these challenging times, our community is continuing to realize Penn State’s commitment to excellence through acts of collaboration, thoughtfulness and kindness. As President Eric Barron has written on Digging Deeper, this truly is a “We Are” moment — and we want to hear your “We Are” stories.

Visit to share how you or other Penn Staters are supporting each other to overcome the collective challenges presented by novel coronavirus. We are!

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Last Updated May 12, 2020