By Juan Calvillo
Nursing students at East Los Angeles College won’t deal with COVID-19 patients during their clinical hours Department Chair Lurelean Gaines said. Gaines said that students are not working with any patients that are in isolation at this time. She said the purpose of this is for students not to use the supplies needed by practicing nurses to attend patients that are in isolation.
“They (hospitals) need that for their employees. We have an option, their employees do not. Those nurses who are assigned certain cases (patients), they have to cover (them). We don’t want to do anything that’s going to cripple them in any way,” Gains said.
With the United States under a state of emergency, the masses buying supplies for a long quarantined time frame and with rising infected numbers, any normal person might begin to panic. Gaines said that those in the Nursing Department are not phased in the slightest. She said that the department has always reminded the students that they need to wash their hands, one of the things the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has taught in order to prevent COVID-19. “They got to wash their hands. That’s the bottomline with everything, everything. The greatest protection to break that chain of infection is handwashing,” Gaines said.
Martha Garcia, assistant director in the Nursing Department, said that in addition to washing their hands, students are told not to wear jewelry because it tends to harbor bacteria that can spread to other people.Garcia said that even though nursing students are not being allowed to interact with isolation patients, they have been taught how to work in isolation rooms before. “We teach them how to use personal protective equipment…the goggles, the bonnet, the mask, the gloves and the gown,” Garcia said.
Nursing student Reuben Zavala said that with everything going on, it’s people not being educated on what is going on that has caused so much turmoil. He said the important information that the Nursing Department has taught students is what he would recommend to people. “Proper handwashing. Like what, 20 seconds or more. Wash between your fingers and nails. I wouldn’t bite my fingernails as people are used to doing. Keeping hands off the face,” Zavala said.
He said that the hospital where he is at is limiting access to masks for the public. “They’re actually removing the N95 masks. Those are used for like, TB (Tuberculosis) patients, airborne. They’re putting them away because people are taking them, people are stealing them,” Zavala said. He said that the hospital is limiting them because they are costly, but also because having them out feeds panic and patients that actually need them don’t get them. He said that when he sees people wearing masks, it causes an uproar because it confuses people.
Gaines said that if there is any change at the hospitals where nursing students are learning, the Nursing Department would be notified and students would return to continue their clinical hours on campus. The hospitals where ELAC’s nursing students are learning include White Memorial Hospital, Monterey Park Hospital and Los Angeles County USC Medical Center.
On Monday, Gaines said that in accordance to the Los Angeles Community College District, “Nursing students will not be in lecture nor clinical for the next two weeks.”