TRU working with RIH to keep nursing students safe

Steven Ross explains why nursing students continue with clinicals during the COVID-19 outbreak at Royal Inland Hospital

Some nursing students will be swapping simulation labs for training within Royal Inland Hospital. (Aidan Grether/The Omega)

As of Monday, Feb. 1, 81 persons, 30 patients and 51 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at Royal Inland Hospital (RIH). Associate Teaching Professor at TRU’s School of Nursing and BScN Chairperson Steven Ross explained why clinicals must carry on amidst the growing outbreak. 

Both he and Interior Health Authority Dr. Carol Fenton confirmed the outbreak continues to be contained to 6 South and the designated COVID unit, 6 North. Ross said all students within those wards were taken out promptly, are self-isolating, and will not return until the issue is resolved. 

When asked if nursing students should be at all concerned by the outbreak at RIH, Ross said; “No I don’t think we need to be concerned. However, I do think we need to be aware of our context and diligent in how we engage in clinical practice.” 

He added that although caring for others makes things like keeping physical distance challenging, remaining diligent comes down to “wearing face masks, keeping up with hand hygiene and doing daily COVID-19 self-assessments.”  

Ross explained that the School of Nursing stays in regular contact with RIH administration “to make sure that everything is good to go for students daily.” 

If anything were to change, RIH would inform the School of Nursing, and the School of Nursing would then adjust operations accordingly. 

He added, “it is important to note [the School of Nursing] is diligent in following the directives of Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, the directives of Interior Medical Health Authorities, and the directives of the Occupational Health and Safety Department at TRU in theory, lab and practice.” 

“We have not been advised to change the way in which we’re delivering our courses, particularly clinical practice. So, we’ve done our due diligence there and are following all the rules,” Ross said.

Ross recognized that some students are anxious and upset and feel the School of Nursing “maybe did not get the message out about the outbreak as quick as some would have liked.” 

He did go on to say that although he has received some emails voicing such concerns, “it is important to note there is not a growing number of outbreaks at the hospital but a single outbreak that is being managed.” 

Ross feels the School of Nursing has been responsive and is advocating for its students. “We didn’t let students know until whenever it was last week because we wanted to make sure we had accurate information to pass along to both students and faculty.”

“It is the responsibility of all of us, as conscientious citizens, to promote our safety and growth. Students are also responsible for promoting their safety and growth. In this case, their growth as nursing students.” Ross reminded students, “to continue to follow the public health guidelines, which includes making sure that you physically distance when not providing direct patient care, wear a mask in social settings and in clinical practice, engage in proper and frequent hand washing, and conduct those daily COVID-19 self-assessments.”

“I do recognize that some people are made anxious by these things, and I think that after talking to a few students face to face, they just needed some reassurance.” Ross said, “Please do not be afraid to reach out.”

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