UTEP Nursing Students finish clinical rotations during Pandemic to graduate in May

Twenty-five students in UTEP’s traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, who chose to complete their clinical training in El Paso hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic, will be among 75 nursing students who are expected to earn their degrees from The University of Texas at El Paso on Saturday, May 16, 2020.

These nursing graduates also will include 19 students who participated in virtual clinical experiences, and 30 students who finished their on-site experiences before the pandemic. Graduating students will receive their degrees as scheduled; however, the May 2020 ceremonies have been rescheduled to the fall.

“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.”

Students in the first three semesters of the UTEP nursing program were released from their clinical obligations in late March.

But seniors in their final semester in the School of Nursing were given three options to complete their clinical training: finish their coursework via virtual simulation, delay their graduation and complete their clinical hours at a later date, or continue their clinical rotations in the hospitals in order to graduate in May.

Students who participated in clinical rotations at University Medical Center, El Paso Children’s Hospital, Del Sol Medical Center, Las Palmas Medical Center and the Hospitals of Providence were restricted from attending to patients who were suspected of having COVID-19.

The hospitals also emphasized infection control and strict adherence to safety protocols.

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. One of the scenarios was 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.

National Nurses Week is May 6-12. This year the American Nurses Association has expanded the week to the entire month of May to expand opportunities to elevate and celebrate nursing.