Nursing students experience long hours in Rochester clinicals

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Photo courtesy of Luther College

Clinical Rotations at Mayo Clinic in Rochester had nursing students feeling exhausted.

Luther College nursing students hit a wall of exhaustion and burnout as they entered spring semester midterms after ten weeks of clinicals and lectures, with no breaks.

The junior nursing students have been undergoing their immersion program in Rochester, MN, to participate in clinical rotations with the Mayo Clinic Hospital, while keeping up with coursework in a church’s basement. However, with this year’s absence of spring break, which was replaced by a rest day, students feel more exhausted than ever. Nursing major Ellie Schrantz (‘22) noted how much nursing majors in Rochester would have appreciated a longer break.

“We weren’t even planning on traveling,” Schrantz said. “We just wanted a mental break from the rigorous nature of nursing– something to look forward to.”

Schrantz explained that while students on campus in Decorah had a rest day, she was sitting in a classroom for lectures added last-minute into the academic calendar. The nursing students had four lecture days added, originally scheduled to be part of their spring break.

“There were a lot of people upset about [this]–not because we had classes, not because they were added, but because there was a lack of communication about why they were added,” Schrantz said.

The typical schedule for third-year nursing students includes two lecture days a week, with each class being two hours long, in addition to two to three days of clinicals in an assigned focus area on a medical surgical unit (e.g., hematology, cardiac, pediatrics, obstetrics, etc.). These clinicals can range from six to eight hours a day.
However, the long hours and intense experiences these students undertake come with a silver lining. In February, nursing students received their vaccinations and were fitted for their N-95 face masks. Alison McHenry (‘22), another nurse on the Rochester program, noted how this extra layer of protection against the COVID-19 virus brought some alleviation from the stress and anxiety of the year.

“I personally feel being vaccinated [gives] a sense of relief, knowing that I won’t necessarily get it,” McHenry said. “[Although,] it does still scare me that I could give it to someone, so I do still wear a mask with everyone.”

Schrantz jumped in to add that she thinks it’s more reassuring to have the N-95 masks in a clinical setting, especially when in close contact with patients.

“We’re supposed to wear them in aerosolized situations, like if [patients] are on a ventilator,” Schrantz said. “[Mayo Clinic] only let us in COVID-19 negative rooms, which is reassuring as a student [as] it really minimizes our risk factor going into clinicals.”

While this year has come with lots of challenges and uncertainty, these two nursing students acknowledge that reorganization of the program amidst COVID-19 has been difficult.

“I know a lot of changes have had to be made which can be stressful at times but we’re figuring it out,” Schrantz said.

Students and faculty are still unsure of how academic programs will function next year. However, these students’ resilience and perseverance during their time as third-year nursing majors remain a pivotal experience during their undergraduate career.

“I think this is honestly a really great experience regardless of COVID-19,” Schrantz said. “A lot of adjustments had to be made for us to be COVID-19 safe. You just have to immerse yourself in the experience and it really does pay off. I’ve learned a lot about nursing, and myself.”

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