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Students Show Heart of Nursing in COVID-19 Volunteer Efforts

DNP student Maria Tucci, left, holds a walkie-talkie as she and Dr. Cory Wilbanks direct traffic at the TIger Lane testing site.

Students and faculty from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Nursing who are volunteering at the COVID-19 testing site on Tiger Lane at the Mid-South Fairgrounds view the experience as an opportunity to live out their mission as nurses.

“Nurses are a strong force and have always been willing to jump in and take care of people when a need arises.That is the nature of what we do,” said Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) student Suzanne Moyer, BSN, RN. “Nurses are problem solvers and will work hard until every last person has been cared for appropriately.” Moyer will graduate in May from UTHSC with her DNP degree, which prepares her to work as a nurse practitioner.

UTHSC opened the drive-thru COVID-19 testing site on Tiger Lane March 20, in collaboration with the Shelby County Health Department and the City of Memphis. It is staffed primarily by students from the colleges of Medicine and Nursing under the supervision of physician and nursing faculty.

In addition to being a vital presence at the COVID19 testing site, UTHSC nurses are stepping up in a variety of ways, including making medical masks, assisting in blood drives, and even doing a Zoom meeting with a Girl Scout Troop on proper hand hygiene during the COVID19 crisis.

Assistant Professor Cory Wilbanks, DNP, APRN, AGACNP-BC, FNP-C, CNL, has been volunteering as a faculty supervisor for nursing students at the COVID-19 testing site and at the call center, where patients are screened by telephone for testing appointments.

Dr. Wilbanks said he considers the effort a duty and a privilege. He quoted Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing: “I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession… and as a ‘missioner of health’ I will dedicate myself to devoted service of human welfare.”

DNP student Suzanne Moyer said stepping up in a crisis is what nurses do.

About 35 students and 17 faculty from the College of Nursing have signed up to assist with COVID-19 testing. Students’ jobs at the testing site include greeting patients and explaining the testing process, directing traffic, serving as runners, and as testing helpers. Volunteers work one four-hour shift per day.

Volunteers at the call center are also vital because screening must take place before any testing can occur, said Dr. Diana Dedmon, DNP, FNP-BC, assistant professor and director of Clinical Affairs for the College of Nursing. Students from both the colleges of Medicine and Nursing are serving at the call center. “It is a wonderful collaborative experience,” she said.

“Our students and faculty have exemplified the true heart of nursing in their volunteer efforts to support COVID19 testing – compassion, collaboration, clinical excellence and professionalism,” said College of Nursing Dean Wendy Likes, PhD, DNSc, APRN-Bc, FAANP. “I am proud of their willingness to run to the front lines to serve their community.”

Stephanie Baggett, BSN, RN, said she jumped at the chance to volunteer at the Tiger Lane test site because she has always felt led to help those in need. “I am a big believer in paying it forward,” she said. “If I make a difference in one patient’s life, I have done my job.”

She considers it an honor to be part of the testing site. “I honestly believe that what Dr. Schwartz and the College of Medicine have put together on Tiger Lane will go down in history, and I am very proud to be a part of it all.”

The effort allows the UTHSC students to be compassionate caregivers to the Memphis community, Moyer said.

“People are at their most vulnerable state when they are sick and need someone to be caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable about what is going on with them and I want to be that person. This volunteering opportunity gave me a chance to interact with our community when the community as a whole is vulnerable,” she said.

Volunteering in this crisis benefits the volunteer, as well as those receiving services, Moyer said.

“Volunteering reminds you that you are not alone,” she said. “I volunteer in hopes to make a difference in the lives of the people we come into contact with at the testing center. It is important to be part of the solution with communication and education.”

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories looking at how UTHSC students across the various colleges are contributing to the battle against the coronavirus. We are seeking stories about students, faculty, staff, and alumni contributing to this effort. Please contact communications@uthsc.edu if you have ideas for future stories. For up-to-date information and resources about the coronavirus, go to https://uthsc.edu/coronavirus/.