NEWS | May 7, 2020

Nursing students essential for maintaining workforce pipeline

Medical Center enables students to finish their clinical experience requirement during pandemic


Students in Sacramento State University’s bachelor’s-degree nursing program have even more proof that UC Davis Medical Center nurses go above and beyond whenever the need arises.

Sac State nursing students Justin Kim (left) and Dom Lamson (second from right) visited more than 20 nursing units to deliver “thank you” treats.  Sac State nursing students Justin Kim (left) and Dom Lamson (second from right) visited more than 20 nursing units to deliver “thank you” treats.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, every Sacramento hospital except the medical center closed its facilities to students. UC Davis Health, through its Patient Care Services department, stepped in to provide slots for every senior who needed to complete their clinical education hours to graduate on time.

It meant that suddenly the medical center had to identify units and preceptors for nearly twice as many nursing students as normally would learn in the hospital at one time.

The California Nursing Student Association (CNSA) was so appreciative of this extraordinary effort that its representatives stopped by more than 20 nursing units recently to drop off delicious, locally baked senorita bread. It was a way to thank the hospital’s nursing teams for lending a helping hand during a critical time in the students’ educational path from learner to nurse.

Students in their last semester of nursing school train at various hospitals and must complete a certain number of clinical hours (in which students works closely with an experienced nurse, one-on-one) to finish their program and be eligible for testing and licensing.

Without UC Davis Medical Center, graduation, nursing boards and careers would have been deferred, perhaps until 2021.

“We were scared that all our hard work would have to be put on hold,” said Justin Kim, who landed a spot in an intensive care unit at the medical center after his clinical learning hours at another Sacramento area hospital ended abruptly. “We’d have to delay graduation, and delay becoming nurses and getting into the field. There were a lot of emotions. We’re so thankful to UC Davis … for working with our faculty and students to allow us to continue to precept.”

For UC Davis nursing leaders, there was never any question that students, on the cusp of graduation and nursing careers, would be given a place at the hospital to finish up their educational requirements. Along with Sacramento State University, the health system also continued its support for students from the Oakland-based Samuel Merritt University and Sacramento City College through slots that were in place before the pandemic hit.

In addition, 47 students from the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis also found places alongside managers and staff of 13 different units, on three different shifts, when other health systems turned them away.

“The continued training of these students was fundamentally important for maintaining the workforce pipeline for registered nurses,” said Toby Marsh, chief nursing and patient care services officer at the medical center. “These were essential workers from our standpoint. There is a constant need for new nurses. We need them. Sacramento needs them. And, most importantly, patients need them.”

Working with Kelly MacPherson, manager of the UC Davis Center for Professional Practice of Nursing, Marsh and others quickly put together plans to find instructors and spaces for 33 nursing students.

“Everybody was committed. Every nurse, every manager I spoke with, talked about how important it was to enable the students to finish their programs,” said MacPherson, who also lectures at Sacramento State. “It was one of those things we really held onto during these tough times: ‘We can get them through this so they can graduate.’”

The nursing students’ association took note of the health system’s extra support during the crisis.

“UC Davis really went above and beyond to help us as students and our continued success,” said Dominique Lamson, a student officer with CSNA who did his placement at the medical center, too. “I’m immensely grateful for everything UC Davis has done for us. They really showed us the importance of a teaching hospital and their dedication to students.”

MacPherson summed up the spirit and attitudes she and Marsh encountered as they identified and coordinated all the various training slots for the incoming students.

“The nursing units were amazing in taking so many more students than they usually do,” MacPherson said. “Every time I sent out an email, I’d immediately get a note back from a manager saying, ‘I can take more [students]. I can take two, I can take three…’”

“And our nurses also have been phenomenal,” added MacPherson. “Not only have they been taking care of patients, they’re teaching, too. They put in the extra time and effort because they know from experience that it’s how you develop the next generation of excellence in nursing.”