Some MTSU nursing students are doing their part to help Tennesseans survive the coronavirus outbreak.
About 25 MTSU students are helping to staff the Tennessee Department of Health’s COVID-19 hotline, which is available from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Central time seven days a week. They sit 6 feet apart, supplied with information and antiseptic wipes, at the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency’s Command Center in Nashville.
The students, clad in their clinical scrubs and lab coats, provide callers from throughout the state with available facts and try to dispel rumors, misinformation and disinformation. The MTSU volunteers are students in Dr. Barbara Lancaster’s community/public health nursing course.
“What better experience could they have!” Lancaster said. “I’m very proud of them.”
Lancaster, an assistant professor of nursing and nurse practitioner, said MTSU responded to a request from Elizabeth Hart, associate director of communication at the Tennessee Department of Health.
Professors could not mandate participation because students were already at the end of the university’s extended spring break. However, Lancaster said her students were grateful for the opportunity.
“It seemed like an answer to prayer,” Lancaster said. “My students rallied to the call.”
Olivia Riggs, a senior from Lenoir City, Tennessee, spent a total of 20 hours on the hotline in one 12-hour shift and one eight-hour shift.
“Most of the calls I received were about where to be tested or whether to get tested,” Riggs said. “Some people thought an increase in the numbers showed the virus was spreading, but it really showed more people were getting tested.”
Riggs said there was hand sanitizer at every other table in the call center, Clorox wipes to clean tables and computers and alcohol wipes to clean phones.
As a normal part of her course, Lancaster requires each of her students to conduct surveys to assess what citizens believe to be their community’s most pressing needs. Following the survey, the students must conduct service projects that respond to those needs.
The students already had conducted their surveys, but the need for social distancing in response to the growing coronavirus outbreak made completing the projects practically impossible. Lancaster gave them the option of working for the hotline or to develop a project on how a registered nurse serves a community. All of her students are on track to graduate in December 2020.
“One of my overriding goals was to enable them to get their experience so they would not have their education put off,” Lancaster said. “I had some students who needed as much as 20 hours.”
The Tennessee Department of Health’s COVID-19 hotline numbers are 833-556-2476 and 877-857-2945.
For more information on MTSU’s nursing programs, contact Jenny Sauls, director of the School of Nursing, at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the webpage at mtsu.edu/nursing/index.php.
— Gina Logue (email@example.com)