Student nurses detail struggles amid COVID-19

Student nurses detail struggles amid COVID-19

Senior staff reporter

Monday, May 25, 2020

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STUDENT nurses and midwives from the Caribbean School of Nursing (CSON), University of Technology (UTech), Jamaica are grateful for assistance they have received to shoulder the impact COVID-19 has had on their lives.

Two student nurses from the Western Campus detailed their struggles since the onset of the infectious disease for the Jamaica Observer, sharing how the assistance — which came from Member of Parliament (MP) for St Andrew East Rural Juliet Holness's Save Our Boys and Girls Foundation, various Kiwanis clubs, and private donors — has helped them.

The donors responded to a call from associate professor and head of school at CSON Dr Adella Campbell, who had reached out to the students to find out their needs. The students received packages consisting of food supplies, toiletries, personal care items, and data to access the Internet for their classes and final assessments.

Student nurse Diandra Campbell, 32, shared that the help came at a time when she was out of a job and had no food.

“I work at a school part-time as an assistant teacher, so now work is on pause for me. The donation came at an appropriate time, because I really needed it... It's a great initiative because there are persons who literally just didn't have not even sugar in their house,” Campbell said. “I was waiting on my final cheque, [which] never came in time... so when the package came, I literally had nothing in the house. So I was really thankful that somebody was out there willing to help us while we were going through this,” she said.

She explained that she volunteered to deliver the care packages to other students who were in need.

“I found that I was having the same challenges they were experiencing, she said. “I didn't have the Internet challenge much, because I am in third year; we were supposed to be on the hospital ward, so we didn't have online classes. Second-year [students] had real challenges because some of them couldn't buy credit. One of them told me she had to beg nine different persons to get credit to put it together to go online to do her exam. It really affected persons in a lot of negative ways, especially students who don't have a support system at all.”

The student nurse, who is also a single mother of two children, shared that the setbacks which came subsequent to the onset of COVID-19 have also left her concerned about her children.

“It's not been easy on my son. He is a high school student in third form. He hates being cooped up in the house... so I have to keep talking to him and encouraging him that it is going to be fine. I do realise it has a psychological effect on him [as] he worries about things I haven't even mentioned to him, [and] I am concerned.

“I heard him and his sister talking one night, and they said they hope I am not stressed because they know it's not easy, so it has affected them in many ways,” Campbell said, while sharing that her daughter's outlet is immersing herself in books, which a donation from the Savanna-la-Mar Library has aided.

As for her son, Campbell said she tries to make him as comfortable as possible by sharing the assistance she receives for her daughter with him.

“He has to go online for classes so he needs credit three to four times per week, [so] the assistance I get with my daughter I use it to buy credit for my son, because she is not doing the same classes as him,” she said.

Campbell, however, remains resolute that things will pick up soon, and said she is not about to give up.

“My mom died when I was 22 and left four siblings, plus I had my two as babies at the time, so I put them [siblings] through high school. When the smallest [one] graduated from Rusea's [High], that's when I started UTech.

“I am praying that some normalcy might return... For my family, I am praying we are going to be fine. I have always been a fighter and I will continue to fight,” she said.

Second-year nursing student Abigail Atkins also mentioned that she has been without a job since the onset of COVID-19 locally. This, she said, coupled with her sick mother, has made navigating school a challenge.

“I worked, so financially it [took] a toll on me due to the fact that I couldn't go to work. I live in the rural area in Westmoreland; where I live there is no Internet connectivity where WiFi is concerned, so I have to be using data to access classes online. That [has been] a challenge.

“My mother was sick and I am not working, so financially it was a strain, but I have persons who were helping me to get financial assistance so I could log on to classes,” Atkins said.

Atkins lauded the lecturers whom she said “tried their utmost best for us to get the information that they have, and for us to have the access so we can do our online exams”.

With regards to the assistance, Atkins described it as a blessing.

“Personally, seeing the smiles on my classmates' faces after receiving the packages, I knew it was not only a blessing for me but for them also. I was a part of the team that went to the communities to hand these packages out, and to see the smiles on their faces and this big 'Thank you' was something that could be used to say that UTech has helped in this pandemic. It was a good thing, and we are grateful,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dr Campbell said she is aware of the hardship the country is facing and the displacement brought on by COVID-19, hence her decision to ask students to submit their needs in order to receive help.

“I received 108 names: Kingston, 53; and Montego Bay, 55. A number of students would have lost their part-time jobs, their parents would have lost jobs as well. Resources are scarce all-round, and as such I sent out a request to the entire student body for them to submit their needs. Needs submitted included assistance with food, personal care items, toiletries, data to access the Internet,” she said, adding that the school's welfare unit normally intervenes but since school is closed she reached out to the students.

The head of CSON added that, while she could not articulate the true level of need, she knows it is great.

“I do not wish to see any student left behind. The packages were delivered in-person to students with the assistance of UTech staff and student representatives, some were present at the handing-over ceremony so they were handed their packages personally,” she shared.

Dr Campbell used the opportunity to thank the sponsors for assisting CSON.

“Our sponsors include MP Juliet Holness — Save Our Boys and Girls Foundation; Food For the Poor; The Kiwanis clubs of New Kingston, Liguanea, downtown Kingston, and Meadowvale. I want to also thank Merdina Callum, an independent sponsor, and staff members of the CSON, UTech,” she said.

Professor Colin Gyles, acting president of UTech, echoed her sentiments.

For her part, MP Holness shared that when she received the call from Dr Campbell and heard of the plight of some students she was moved to help and did so with assistance from Progressive Grocers, her constituency development fund, and the coffers of her foundation. She said she was able to assist CSON, UTech as well as senior citizens, farmers, taxi operators, and other individuals in dire need.

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