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With 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingales birth on May 12, ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, school nurse, students share thoughts on nursing, changes through time

Submitted Photo: Eve Szydlowski
CNA and senior Eve Szydlowski poses in her scrubs. Szydlowski got her CNA certification after taking a course at the J. Everett Light Career Center and currently works at an assisted care home.

On May 12 the world will celebrate the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. In conjunction with this occasion, the World Health Organization has designated 2020 to be the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. According to womenshistory.org, Florence Nightingale was a nurse who helped treat men during the Crimean War and went on to improve the nursing field through healthier medical practices. The legacy of her work can be seen in the role of nurses and future nurses at Carmel.

Eve Szydlowski, clinical nursing assistant (CNA) and senior, works part-time as a nursing assistant at an assisted care home and has always had a passion for healthcare.

Szydlowski acquired her CNA Certification after taking a class at the J. Everett Light Career Center in her junior year. 

“CNA is a certified nursing assistant, so essentially it’s someone who works under a nurse and provides like direct patient care,” Szydlowski said. “In (the CNA prep class), we learned basic patient care kind of things, entry-level healthcare-related stuff.”

Szydlowski said that getting a CNA certification is beneficial for her because she plans on pursuing a nursing degree in college. Even though she’s still in high school, being a CNA allows her to get clinical experience.

“A CNA certification is really helpful (for) just getting into nursing programs. For a lot of (programs) you have to have (a CNA) first,” Szydlowski said. “(The certification has) given me a really good headstart getting clinical hours and I already have most of my internship hours for a bachelor’s degree.”

Like Szydlowski, senior Linh Nguyen will pursue a nursing degree following high school but she does not currently hold a CNA. In terms of preparation for pursuing nursing, Nguyen said that several classes in high school have been helpful.

“I’ve taken all four years of the PLTW Biomed program. I don’t know how much that’s gonna prepare me, but I’ve done that. I’ve also done the anatomy class. That was a lot of information, but that I feel like that was really good, cause I’m still gonna have anatomy in college,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen also said that she chose nursing over other healthcare careers because it involves more in-person interaction.

“I think with nursing comes to a lot of one-on-one kind of care. It’s just a lot of like taking care of people, being like, ‘Hey, did you take your meds?’” Nguyen said. “I’m a people person. I think that’s why I chose it.”

According to Lori Baldwin, school nurse and registered nurse (RN), the work nurses do is incredibly varied. Before COVID-19 led to CHS moving to virtual learning, Baldwin worked as a school nurse on Mondays and Tuesdays, and as a nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) for the rest of the week.

“(At school, our) primary role is to care for the students’ health needs that arise during the day. We see very simple things from little paper cuts to headaches, stomachache, nausea. Then we see kids that are significantly sicker with fevers and respiratory problems,” Baldwin said. “We also have kids that come in for daily meds, so we prepare all those and administer those as the kids come to our clinic during the day.”

Nguyen also said that from what she’s seen while shadowing, the role of nurses is vital in the hospital.”

Nguyen said, “(Everyone is like) I want to be a doctor, I want to do all these great things, but nursing is like the core of the hospital. Without nurses, you don’t really have a working, functioning hospital.”

Szydlowski said that differing levels of nursing education and certification contribute to the differing jobs nurses can do.

“Right now where I work at like an assisted living and like long term care, there’s a lot of like LPNs who help like an associate’s degree,” Szydlowski said. “The difference in education just determines where you want to go in the field.”

Throughout the 200 years since Florence Nightingale was born, the field of nursing has also undergone several changes.

One of these changes is the different gender roles within the field. According to Baldwin, more men are joining the traditionally female-dominated field and they bring unique benefits.

“Not to throw women under the bus, but men and women are different. (Women are) emotional. I think (having more men) provides a little more balanced emotion…and strength,” Baldwin said. “(Also,) the perspective of a male is different than a female.”

Nguyen agrees with Baldwin and said that she thinks this is a positive thing.

“(Nursing) used to be like a very female-dominated. It still is but there have been more men who are in the program now or like in the field. They’re really encouraging that, which I think is great.”

Another major change is the introduction of more technology into the field. Baldwin said that more advanced technology and medication help make hospital stays shorter.

“All our documentation is electronic now. Everywhere you go. I miss paper documentation sometimes (because) computer documentation takes a lot longer in the hospital and it’s a lot more involved. But it’s safer and it’s easier to keep records that way,” Baldwin said. “Medications are also electronically controlled and we have to scan them before we give them, and that’s a huge improvement for patient safety and nursing responsibility.”

Szydlowski said that she believes the perception of nursing in society has also changed.

“(Nursing) once was a very uneducated and feminine career. It’s kind of changed into like a broader spectrum of like more educated like healthcare professionals,” Szydlowski said.

Nguyen agreed with Szydlowski saying that nursing as a field has grown in importance.

“It used to be just like you check the vital, so like blood pressure, the small things. But then now it’s grown to such a big and important, crucial part to the hospital and how everything works,” Nguyen said.

COVID-19 has also lead to changes in the nursing field. According to Szydlowski, her workplace is currently understaffed and she has been experiencing several things for the first time.

Szydlowski said, “For me and most other people in the healthcare field we’ve really never experienced a shortage (of personal protective equipment) like this..”

With the expansion of the nursing field, Baldwin believes that every part of nursing is still incredibly important.

“I think every nursing job is valuable. We all play a part in healthcare and I think the most beautiful thing about nursing is the variety of fields,” Baldwin said. “(Nursing) is so valuable and I love to see new people coming into it. I love to work with students because someday you’re going to take over. I want you to feel good, strong, confident and supported by your peers.”

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