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Nursing Students See Practical Application in Managing COVID-19

Graduate nursing student Rachel Capote has been watching the White House press conferences on COVID-19 and hearing the speakers use terms and data analysis concepts that she has been learning about in her Advanced Pathophysiology class for the Master of Science in Nursing in Population Health. “It is fascinating.  This area of study interests me because nurses are afforded the opportunity to work with a team of experts to affect change across populations to improve health outcomes,” said Capote, an experienced pediatric nurse and lab assistant for the undergraduate nursing program.

Capote had just finished her paper on “Novel Coronavirus COVID-19” when the outbreak started to peak.

We asked Capote, a graduate of  Caldwell’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, and Dr. Donna Naturale, Capote’s professor and the associate dean of the School of Nursing and Public Health, what the coronavirus is teaching us about health care and nursing and how Caldwell’s MSN in population health is preparing nurses to meet this type of health care crisis.

How is the Master of Science in Nursing in Population Health program relevant to what we are seeing in the coronavirus outbreak? 

Picture of Dr. Donna Naturale, Associate Dean of the School of Nursing and Public Health.

Dr. Donna Naturale is an Associate Dean of the School of Nursing and Public Health.

Dr. Naturale– Caldwell’s MSN in Population Health is directly related to improving the health of vulnerable populations.  Today, more than ever, our nation is undergoing a public health crisis.  We will need more nurses who are prepared to understand, care for and evaluate populations at risk for complications of the disease.  The MSN in Population Health curriculum focuses on epidemiology, assessing disease and identifying trends in data.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is providing us with epidemiological data daily with this pandemic.

What role is technology playing in health care for this pandemic?

Dr. Naturale Technology is helping to keep people connected.  Telemedicine is being implemented in medical practices and healthcare facilities to increase patient engagement and improve the patient experience while reducing the risk of the spread of disease.  The use of electronic medical records in healthcare will help to improve communications among healthcare providers, patient safety and sharing of information such as electronic prescribing.  These types of tools will reduce the need for patients to be seen in the office.  By using advanced technology such as telehealth services, health coaching and various types of digital advanced technology like home blood sugar monitoring and home blood pressure monitoring, access to healthcare will become easier.  Utilizing technology, the nurses graduating with a MSN in Population Health will be prepared to lead interdisciplinary teams and coordinate patient care in order to promote best patient outcomes.

Ms. Capote – As devastating as the pandemic of COVID-19 is, there is much to be learned.  Technology has vastly improved the speed and opportunity for which scientists can collaborate to share information.  The experience will help us to become stronger as a nation and improve and strengthen relationships with our global neighbors.  Emergency preparedness plans will be improved to help us be better prepared in the future.

Ms. Capote, you said you started practicing social distancing earlier this year while you were working on your paper? I’m in New York several times a week and I stopped going to theatres and museums before they called it social distancing. It made sense.

 As devastating as this COVID-19 outbreak is, what do you both think are the takeaways that will benefit healthcare and society?

Dr. Naturale –Having been a nurse for over 30 years I have had the opportunity to run through many disaster drills.  Unfortunately, none of them prepared us for this type of virus that spreads so readily.  As we have already learned, our nation was not fully prepared for the pandemic of COVID-19.  We recognize the need for more personal protective equipment for healthcare staff. We were happy that we could donate equipment from our nursing school to Morristown Medical Center. Society has learned the importance of meticulous hand hygiene in order to prevent the spread of the infection.    Each day we continue to learn that this virus spreads very easily and can live on objects for an extended period of time placing the community at risk.   We are learning the importance of infection prevention and infection control measures.  Social distancing–remaining six feet away from others–is being practiced. It is new and takes some adjustment.   This all requires support and communication with others in a different manner than what we are used to.   Telemedicine will become a more commonly used tool for healthcare.

 Ms. Capote, what have you seen as the benefits of the MSN in Population Health program? The online program has been an incredible opportunity for me to advance my education while maintaining full-time employment.  It’s affordable and relevant to today’s health care crisis.  In the courses, faculty members use the newest technology and provide full academic support and guidance.  I plan to graduate in 2021 using my new degree in an advanced role of population health nursing within a major New York City hospital system.

To learn more about the Master of Science in Nursing in Population Health program, click here.