Posted on: November 11, 2020 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By Brendan McQuinn, JRN 111 Student

With nursing jobs frozen, Katie Adkins found it difficult to work after receiving her degree.

I have experienced this pandemic in the first few months of my career, when there are nurses 20 years in who have seen nothing like it.

Katie Adkins

Katie Adkins, like so many other 2020 graduates, had the next several steps of her life fully planned out, with her mind set on fulfilling her goals in quick, neat, capable succession. COVID-19, however, had other plans for her.

In March, with only a few weeks left of clinical hours and preparations underway for her nursing exit exam, the coronavirus pandemic threw her orderly world into a state of unbridled chaos. Yanked off her schedule for clinical practice hours and forced to shift to a near-total online curriculum in a matter of days, Adkins, a former MVCC nursing student and recent graduate of Chamberlain University, had to recalibrate fast.

“It was a difficult transition,” said Adkins, whose analytical gaze hints of her innate intelligence.

“From hours of class time, simulation, and clinical, to finishing my degree virtually, it was unlike anything I ever could have expected in my last few months as a nursing student.”

To her benefit, however, was a prior five-year stretch working in the healthcare field. From the onset of her higher education, Adkins had been working as a patient transporter at the local Palos Community Hospital. In the first stages of lockdown, as coronavirus precautions took hold over every aspect of everyday life, Adkins was able to become comfortable on the front lines prior to entering the workforce as a new graduate.

“I had been exposed to a lot of different situations, even before COVID,” Adkins said.

During her time at Palos, she had gained experience with patient IVs, radiology procedures, and physical therapy all before she had even touched a nursing textbook.

Combining the experience at Palos with studying locally proved to be a massive bonus for Adkins, who had begun planning a cross-country move late in 2019.

“At Moraine, with school and work so close together, I was able to complete all of my prerequisites and get my associate’s degree in science before I transferred to a university while still working,” Adkins said. “It saved me a lot of time and money.”

Upon completion of her studies at Moraine and a successful experience in Chamberlain University’s nursing program, Adkins planned to relocate to southern Texas. Despite boasting an impressive transcript, prior healthcare experience, and an eagerness to dive into a workforce that was in dire need of capable bodies, she found herself met, at first, with firm resistance.

“Many hospitals were on hiring freezes due to the pandemic; there are many new protocols in place,” Adkins explained.

“Almost every medical facility requires a medical screening and clearance of each person entering the facility, including checking temperatures, travel histories, and screening for symptoms of COVID.”

Because of the cross-country shift, quarantining and preventative measures became a concern for Adkins in terms of job hunting, whose move had already been tumultuous due to the to-and-from uncertainty presented by the pandemic’s unpredictable nature.

After a stretch of disappointments and dead ends from potential opportunities, Adkins found a relief position at a small local hospital less than ten minutes from her house, and upon further searching, attained and is gearing up to begin a more intensive nursing position at another facility in the coming weeks.

Although her time in the initial position has been short, there has been no shortage of experience. Adkins believes that later, when COVID-19 has been resolved, she will have valuable expertise and wisdom that other new nurses will not have.

“I have experienced this pandemic in the first few months of my career, when there are nurses 20 years in who have seen nothing like it,” Adkins said. “Words like ‘unprecedented’ and ‘extraordinary’ have never seen so much use throughout the medical zeitgeist in the last 9-10 months.”

Entering a major that is notoriously stressful can be difficult, but Adkins recommends hard work from the beginning: “My advice is to get good grades in your prerequisites when starting off, because [Chamberlain University] generally won’t accept students below a B average.”

However, Adkins stresses the need for self-focus as well.

“Dedicate at least one day to yourself,” she says. “And be sure to take breaks from studying.”

As a new job looms on the horizon and preparations begin, Adkins thinks back to the last semester of her final year with a mix of emotions, but is ready to embrace new challenges.

“Feeling comfortable in my schooling, then studying through the complications brought by COVID while working in a hospital setting–it all definitely prepared me for the ultimate transition into the nursing role.”

Photos courtesy of Katie Adkins