Despite pandemic health care dangers, near record numbers of students are enrolled in nursing program at Cox College

Published: Aug. 17, 2020 at 6:08 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2020 at 6:09 PM CDT
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Established in 1907 as the Burge Training School, Cox College in downtown Springfield near Cox North has been preparing nurses for their missions of compassion and care for over 100 years.

Like most other colleges though the nursing school closed its doors this past March because of the coronavirus just as an extensive remodeling project was being finished inside the facility.

So when the fall semester started on Monday, students were looking at a lot of new improvements to their surroundings as well as some COVID-related changes like social distancing, everyone wearing masks and a hybrid-model of both in-person and virtual classes.

“We are committed to providing our students with a top-quality education, despite being off-campus more than they have been in the past,” says Dr. Amy DeMelo, president of Cox College. “Given the tools we have for virtual learning, we feel it’s in the best interest of our students, staff and community to utilize this option as much as possible.”

Despite an increase of virtual learning, there will be times when students will be present at the college. To help reduce the number of people in the facility staff members will also alternate days they are on campus, and work remotely on the other days.

A plan has also been designed to allow Cox College students to continue conducting their clinical rotations.

“It’s something they are dealing with that maybe past generations didn’t have to deal with as much,” DeMelo said of all the changes. “We’re all kind of figuring this out together and there’s experts who can help us.”

But the biggest difference is that these students face a daunting challenge because of the mystery and threat of COVID-19. In a health care industry that was already facing a nursing shortage even before the pandemic, now there are health care workers around the country deciding to step away because of the long hours, uphill battle and grave danger that would make anyone think twice before joining the profession.

“I feel like there are still some nerves and there are still a lot of unknowns,” said Alissa Evans, a first-year grad student from St. Clair, Missouri. “But this field we’re getting into is a great opportunity to learn how we can take anything that happens and deliver the same as always.”

“They are getting to experience once in a lifetime events that sure makes it scary for them but also great for them,” DeMelo added. “They get to really practice what they’re being trained to do and what we need them to do.”

So instead of having a downturn in the number of students, Cox College has a near-record enrollment of 987 as it appears the same thing that drew these future nurses into the field is also driving them to take on the new challenges head-on.

In other words, they’re more than ready to answer the call.

“To be in health care you really have to love people, you have to love serving and you have to have a desire. It’s not something you can really teach,” said first-year grad student Nathan Lambert, a Springfield Central product.

“This is not a time to be afraid,” Evans said. “It’s a time to step up to the plate. There are people out there willing to do anything it takes to get people back to their normalcy.”

“For a lot of them it has reinforced that they’re making the right career choice for themselves because they do want to help and they do want to be on the front lines,” DeMelo said. “I’m nervous for them as any mom would be sending students into an unknown situation. However, I am not nervous in that we are doing everything we possibly can to keep them safe and balance the fact that we need to educate our health care workforce.”

And as to that nursing shortage, DeMelo said that virtually every student at the college already has secured a job by the time they graduate.

Copyright 2020 KY3. All rights reserved.

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