Nigel Cutting will earn his bachelor’s in nursing as a Summer ’20 graduate in a unique position. His class is the first to graduate with a completely new kind of schedule due to COVID-19. They start with seven weeks of frontloaded online lecture courses followed by eight weeks of clinical simulation classes. But like his classmates, he isn’t backing down from the intense experiences he’s about to face head on – especially after already weathering the storm in the course of his studies.
Cutting ended his spring semester in April, as the coronavirus outbreak escalated. As nursing apprentice personnel at the Sunrise Hospital https://sunrisehospital.com/emergency department, he was able to receive the hands-on experience that virtual classes couldn’t provide. A nursing apprentice is an extra set of hands for the nurses, learning on the job to better become a registered nurse.
The severity of COVID-19 was a trial by fire of sorts.
“People didn’t want to come to the hospital,” Cutting said. “They were scared of catching the coronavirus, so they stayed home and would come in until the last minute, when they were already critical.”
It required a combination of classroom knowledge and hands-on experience.
“We have to think what is happening at a physiological level and how can we help it,” he said. “The classroom teaches about the issues, then the critical thinking has to kick in to determine the plan of care.”
Cutting balanced his coursework with his apprentice role, putting in 60-80 hours a week of nursing on top of his studies and homework. Despite the unfolding severity Cutting witnessed for most of the year, he says it gave him new insight into being an effective nurse.
“You have to work very quickly to ensure [critical patients] don’t stop breathing,” he said. “It’s given me confidence and skills to work quickly, to see the signs and symptoms of respiratory distress, get a doctor, and save this person’s life.”
Driven to care
Cutting’s interest in nursing came from two very different places. He was first drawn to health care while watching medical-based television shows, but that interest intensified watching nurses treat his uncle who suffered a massive stroke.
“I saw the nurses care for my uncle in ways I couldn’t imagine, like changing wound dressings and suctioning,” he said. “I never could have thought this could be me.”
Combined with a desire to help others, he pursued nursing once he arrived at college. Cutting says his research showed him a different side of the profession, that nurses did more than what was portrayed on TV.
Looking ahead, Cutting says he would love to stay with the emergency room for now but is not in a rush. He isn’t sure yet which nursing specialty he wants to pursue, though he wants to stick with the adult emergency room to gain more experience there before potentially treating children.
While he hasn’t interviewed for any COVID-19 specific units, it will be difficult to work far away from the pandemic.
“We get a lot of COVID in the ER. It’s hard not to work around individuals with COVID,” he said.
As he reflects on what it takes to be a successful nursing student (and nurse), Cutting says upcoming nurses should be sponges to absorb as much knowledge as they can.
“They will throw so much information at you so quickly, especially being an accelerated program,” he said. “Everything you learn, there’s a reason why. Everything will come into play once you’re a nurse.”