North Island College practical nursing students found themselves in a unique situation when they started their program last September.

They’re required to complete 650 hours of applied practice during their two-year program, and some were getting ready for that practicum when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

Breanna Patterson is one of the first-year Practical Nursing students who experienced the pandemic as both a student and a health care worker.

She says it was something you can’t exactly prepare for. 

“At first it was kind of scary, as this was a situation that I’ve never really been in before,” said Patterson.

 “It was also a bit terrifying as I knew that the care homes had never dealt with this type of pandemic situation before. Wearing the mask all the time, new sanitization protocols, getting our temperature checked daily, and staying six feet away from residents as much as possible – all of these things felt so strange.”

NIC staff say they were able to work with both the Evergreen Seniors Home in Campbell River and Fir Park Village in Port Alberni, to ensure protocols were in place to keep students, staff and clients safe, while still allowing students to be in the facilities.

“Care homes provide students with a crucial opportunity to experience client-focused care, community engagement, as well as client advocacy,” said  NIC practical nursing instructor Rachel Goodliffe. 

“We worked with staff at Evergreen and Fir Park to ensure that this practice placement could go ahead, with safety for residents and key workers being at the forefront of everyone’s minds,” explained Goodliffe.   

The school says as time went on the students learned to adapt to the situation and keep learning, nevertheless, it was a one-of-a-kind practicum experience NIC students will remember for a while.