BSN Student Reflections on Fall 2020 Semester

photo of Duquesne University campus during autumn

We know the Fall 2020 semester has been unique. It has required flexibility, a commitment to care and safety, and a general change in how we interact with one another. Students in our Traditional BSN and accelerated Second Degree BSN programs share their reflections on the semester.

Meet the Students

headshot of smiling Black woman student

Ivy Mwakughu, Sophomore, BSN student
I am an international student from Kenya. I knew I wanted to become a nurse when I experienced a situation back home where there was a shortage of doctors. I saw how the nurses had to work extra hard—despite there being so few of them—to take care of patients in need and provide medical care. I was instantly inspired to join the medical field as a nurse. After I graduate, I would like to work in pediatrics. I love children, and I look forward to  working with them in this field.

Julia Ciotti, Senior, BSN student
As a Pittsburgher, Duquesne feels like my second home. Because of family experiences in the hospital, I have seen firsthand the importance of diligent nursing care and advocacy. I felt called to become a nurse because of those pivotal life moments and my faith. I vow to always take care of my patients as if they were my family and treat them with kindness and respect. After graduation, I would like to pursue a career in maternal-child health, pediatrics or telemetry. Ultimately, I aspire to become a nursing educator at the collegiate level.

Shannon Herring, Second Degree BSN student, 16-month track
I am interested in the pediatrics area of practice. I know that being a nurse is such a rewarding career. It feels good to be the reason I made a difference in someone’s life, and I want to be a part of a team that positively contributes to a person’s health and well-being.

Reflecting on the Semester

How has this semester differed from your other semesters at Duquesne University?

Ivy: This fall semester has been very different compared to my other semesters at Duquesne. The biggest adjustment was the Zoom classes. Personally, I prefer in-person classes. I believe I can concentrate better, and I enjoy interacting with the professors and other students. Although the HyFlex model made this partly possible, I always looked forward to my turn of physically being in class. We also had fully online lab sessions. This was interesting, as I never thought it would be practical, but it actually worked.

Julia: This semester has differed in terms of lecture and course teaching styles. Classes were held both in-person and virtually according to a predetermined schedule. I liked that the virtual sessions were held synchronously with the in-person instruction because it allowed us to actively engage with our instructors in real time.

Did you take advantage of open lab hours or any of the virtual skills chats?

Ivy: I was fortunate enough to take part in the open lab hour sessions. Several hours in the afternoon were set aside for students to practice the skills they learn in class. They are an hour each, but you can sign up for multiple times. This really helped me prepare for my competency exams and overall learn and practice skills that I could use and apply in the hospital setting. Instructors were present during open lab to take you through each and every step of the way to ensure your success. The most fascinating thing for me was the fact that the same skills that I was able to practice in open lab enabled me to be efficient and confident in the hospital.

Julia: I did sign up for open lab hours, and I would recommend all students take this great opportunity to practice your skills. The lab faculty also recorded simulation videos for students to watch virtually if needed.

Shannon: When open labs were being offered, I attended once or twice a week. They were extremely helpful since I am a hands-on learner. Attending open lab allowed me to get the hands-on experience I needed to be successful in clinical rotation.

What was your favorite learning experience this semester?

Ivy: My favorite learning experience this semester was the clinical rotations in the hospitals. I enjoyed every moment of it. Despite the fact that I had to wake up really early, it was all worth it. The most exciting part was the hands-on experience. It was amazing being able to practice the skills I learned in lecture. Most importantly, I feel like the early exposure is really good, as it helps to prepare me for what to expect when I start working after graduation.

Julia: My favorite learning experience was my relationships with my instructors. These are truly unprecedented times in which we are all working through together. Even though we weren’t physically in the same lecture hall, we did form strong bonds. Our instructors are truly amazing and always go above and beyond to ensure that we succeed.

Shannon: My favorite learning experience this semester was when I was able to complete a head-to-toe assessment with a patient via Zoom, after in-person clinicals were canceled.

How have faculty supported your learning while first following social distancing protocols then, if applicable, after the switch to virtual clinical?

Ivy: The faculty has provided flexible office hours on Zoom, where you can meet with them and they are able to help you out with any problems or concerns you may have. They were able to come up with alternative assignments that helped to build critical thinking skills, particularly how to apply them in the hospital setting.

Julia: We have completed multiple virtual patient scenarios and assignments. Additionally, we were able to complete our critical care simulation code virtually.

Shannon: Faculty was very supportive after clinical became virtual. They worked to create a clinical-based learning environment by providing us with more interactive modules of real-life patient situations, rather than just having us read and complete assignments.

Knowing that things could change in an instant, what are you looking forward to in the spring semester?

Ivy: I am looking forward to hopefully more clinical experiences and classroom sessions. However, I am prepared for anything. This past semester has taught me that change is inevitable, and the only thing you can do is just be ready for anything as this will make it easier for an effective transition.

Julia: I am looking forward to hopefully being back on the clinical units in the hospitals and taking care of patients.

Shannon: During the spring semester, I look forward to getting back into the hospital setting to continue spending more time in face-to-face interaction with patients.

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