As the impact of COVID-19 was being felt throughout the Philadelphia area over the last three months, students at Roxborough School of Nursing stepped up to lend a hand.

From the beginning of March, seniors in the Roxborough nursing program volunteered at Roxborough Memorial Hospital to help anyway they could, from answering phones, calming patients, assisting staff with COVID-19 screenings, and easing the minds of patients experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or anxiety related to the pandemic.

“The students were quick learners and were able to use their critical thinking skills,” said Roxborough School of Nursing Dean Paulina Marra-Powers RN, EdD, MSN. “There are some things you can’t teach, like empathic listening, and these students did really well.”

The volunteers came at an opportune time as beds at Roxborough filled with COVID-19 patients, overwhelming staff and leaving the hospital with immense challenges.

"The students stepped up when they learned the organization needed nursing students to act in extern roles,” said Academic Coordinator and Nursing Instructor Louise Augenbraun RN, MSN.

“They needed to multitask, and deal with some very worried and scared patients,” Augenbraun said.  “They were able to calm nerves, and they knew what to say to the patients and their families to ease their minds, especially when asked about recent businesses that were closing in the area.”

Dr. Marra-Powers said the experience was invaluable for the future nurses.

“I think they are gaining a new appreciation for public health and what public health means,” Dr. Marra-Powers said. “And it’s reflective of the level of civic engagement they have.”

Nursing student volunteers said their training at Roxborough School of Nursing prepared them to help during an unprecedented public health emergency. 

“When Roxborough Memorial Hospitals cases increased, I just jumped in and answered their calls for assistance,” said nursing student Nicoletta Carson, 24, of Roxborough.

 Nusing student Vickie Phan, 26 of Northeast Philadelphia, was working in different sections of the hospital based on staffing needs each day.

“The pandemic is obviously something that has changed the entire world, so as many helping hands will help any department in need,” she said. “I’m glad to be a part of it. It’s a great start to a good career as far as helping people and saving lives.”

Nursing student Zhino Rasheed, 36, of Philadelphia who moved here from Sulaymaniya, said she was overwhelmed at first.

“As I helped with cases, I realized, yes, I was prepared,” Rasheed said. “The nice thing about being a senior nursing student is we have seen all varieties of patients and medical treatments.  In this case, it wasn’t so much about medicine, but about interacting with different patients and staff, just like we did in our clinical rotations.”

While she is still applying to job offers in the Philadelphia area, Alexis Moros, 27, of Philadelphia, said she is not worried about working around patients with COVID-19. In fact, she actually wishes she could head north to a state like New York, where the need for nurses is greater than here at home.

“I’m an eager nursing student and I’m ready to get started. I want to help where I’m most needed,” she said.

On June 19, 77 students will graduate from the Roxborough School of Nursing program, one of the top-ranked programs in Pennsylvania with 98.5% of graduates passing the National Council of Licensing Examination (NCLEX-RN) for Registered Nurses on their first attempt. One year after graduation, 98% of graduates are employed.

The program’s high rankings are the result of a faculty that goes above and beyond for their students, and students who do the same for each other, Dr. Marra-Powers said. That spirit carries into their volunteer work.

“I’ve never worked anywhere where the students are so engaged,” Dr. Marra-Powers said. “Most of them do between 24 to 100 hours of community service each semester, from community senior center events, staffing a first aid tent at the Roxborough Bike Marathon and Roxborough Day, to creating food baskets for the community. We have amazing students.”

For more information about the nursing program, visit https://www.roxboroughmemorial.com/School-of-Nursing.aspxor call 215-487-4344.

About Roxborough Memorial Hospital- Roxborough Memorial Hospital is a 131-bed community hospital. The hospital has been serving the medical and health care needs of the Roxborough, Manayunk, East Falls and northwest section of Philadelphia communities for more than a century, having first opened its doors in 1890. Roxborough Memorial Hospitals School of Nursing has been educating nurses since 1898. The hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the nation's oldest and largest hospital accreditation agency. As part of Prime Healthcare Services, headquartered in Ontario, California, Roxborough Memorial Hospital is focused on becoming one of the leaders in technology.

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