Portrait of Tracy Limbrunner MS, APN/CNS, RN-BC
Tracy Limbrunner

Artist, author, and entrepreneur Vivian Greene wrote, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… It’s about learning to dance in the rain…” Our nursing students could have easily decided to wait out the storm, but they accepted the challenge to learn to dance in the rain. Since the spring of 2020, students have learned many dances. They have learned the dances of patience, collaboration, adaptability, and perseverance.

The dance of patience was learned first when classes and clinicals went 100 percent online. Thanks to Zoom, we were able to have some synchronous online classes, which closely simulated our normal class sessions. However, a ten-hour virtual clinical was a bit more challenging. There were many technical challenges for the students and faculty. Students had to be patient with the faculty as they learned to navigate Zoom and other virtual tools. Also, some students had to deal with poor internet coverage and patiently wait for slow connections or frequent reboots.

The collaboration dance came next as students helped each other when there were technical problems. Students more adept in technology would share helpful tips with their peers and sometimes their teacher, too. Students also learned to collaborate during Zoom breakout room sessions. They had many opportunities to work collaboratively with their peers on simple tasks, skill demonstrations, and clinical reasoning scenarios. The need for collaboration continued as we began the fall session with a different Learning Management System. As we were all learning, students would willingly share their screens to navigate their peers through the new system.

Learning the dance of adaptability not only helped students with technology changes but it also helped them adjust to ever-changing clinical plans. They have had virtual clinical, clinical in our simulation lab, half online, half in-person, full in-person, and last-minute clinical site changes. The students have been very creative to adapt to these different learning environments. They created models or recruited family members to practice and simulate skills when we were virtual. They adjusted family schedules and/or arranged support to accommodate in-person clinical since home-life looks very different for many during this pandemic.

Due to the personal struggles that COVID-19 has caused and the normal challenges of the nursing program, the students have also learned the dance of perseverance. Nursing school is traditionally tough and now the students have to deal with the craziness and scariness of the coronavirus. Home and family life are more hectic with possible online learning for the children, spouses working from home, or elderly family members who have become sick or need care and attention. Many of our students are also essential workers and have been working through these difficult times and trying to maintain their health and maintain a school, work, and life balance.

Overall, these qualities displayed by our students during this pandemic only reaffirm the fact that Waubonsee Community College students have what it takes to become not just good nurses, but great nurses. It takes patience to administer medications safely and carefully to an 80-year-old who recently suffered a stroke. In order for a nursing unit to run smoothly with positive patient outcomes, all team members must collaborate to provide quality care in an efficient manner. Healthcare is guided by evidence-based practice, so it is essential that nurses are adaptable to frequent and inevitable changes with technologies and procedures. Additionally, through tough times like the COVID-19 pandemic and many other challenges that our students will encounter during their career as a nurse, it is vital that they have the perseverance to carry on in the face of adversity.

Therefore, as this storm rages on and exhaustion sets in, our students won’t be deterred. They will continue to dance so that they can complete their studies with the knowledge and skills to achieve their dreams of becoming registered nurses. Furthermore, their patience, collaboration, adaptability, and perseverance will propel them to be the kind, caring, stellar nurses we are proud to call our nursing graduates.

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