LANCASTER — While nearly half of nursing programs in the state closed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Antelope Valley College was able to continue its program thanks to the assistance of Kaiser Permanente and Palmdale Regional Medical Center.
AV College will graduate 43 nurses in January.
“We could not have done it without Palmdale and Kaiser,” AV College Director of Nursing Dr. Casey Scudmore said.
The college continued to enroll new nursing students in its programs. All students are progressing on time.
AV College nursing students were displaced from Antelope Valley Hospital and a Los Angeles County clinic in March due to the pandemic.
“That put 211 students out of clinic,” Scudmore said.
AV Hospital could no longer accommodate the students because personal protective equipment was in short supply at the time.
“They didn’t have enough for their own staff and so they were concerned about the shortage,” Scudmore said.
Nursing students will return to AV Hospital in the spring.
The California Board of Registered Nursing issued AV College a waiver to allow students to do 50% of their required hours as direct care. The remainder completed as virtual simulations or case studies that could be completed at home.
AV College students completed their clinical hours at the Kaiser Permanente Lancaster Medical Offices on 15th Street West in Lancaster.
“We had a contract with Kaiser but we hadn’t put students there yet,” Scudmore said. “They were very accommodating on short notice. They took about 80 of our students.”
The second- and fourth-semester students worked in the flu clinic and other departments.
“They were just very gracious and very welcoming,” Scudmore said. “That was a very good experience there at Kaiser.”
Kaiser provided the nursing students with face shields so they would have the proper personal protective equipment.
“We have a very strong relationship with our community educators, and it’s so important for us to be that initial mentorship,” said Shana Molt, chief nursing officer for Kaiser Permanente.
Kaiser offers programs for junior and senior high school students to start enculturating them into medicine early.
“The field is vast and it’s a very needed profession in all levels and with nursing in particular,” Molt said. “With AV College, thankfully, we have had a longstanding relationship with them where we train not only RNs but LVNs as well.”
The students work in the urgent and primary care as well as specialty and OB-GYN departments.
“They’ve been so engaged during this pandemic,” Molt said. “This has been a switch for all educators, health care society. The level of engagement is so high. Now, more than ever, professionals are realizing the ones that will be replacing us are have to be the most expert in the field.”
Kaiser conducted an intensive orientation prior to welcoming the students to ensure they knew what to expect and how to be prepared.
“As far as nursing goes this is something that is invaluable to them,” Molt said. “They’ve been out on the field watching, learning, and assisting patients. I have to say our patients love them because of their attitude and their willingness. It’s all hands on deck at this point. They’re getting an education they didn’t know they were going to get this year.”
AV College already had students scheduled at Palmdale Regional Medical Center. The hospital took the other students that Kaiser could not accommodate.
“We took up every floor,” Scudmore said. “We’re not caring for COVID patients there because of the PPE or isolation. The students are bringing in their own PPE. We’re all wearing a mask. The nursing department purchased face shields for all of the students and instructors. We’ve been everywhere and they’ve been very accommodating.”
Daisy Dorotheo, senior director of clinical operations for Palmdale Regional Medical Center, said they were able to accommodate all of the students AV College needed.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, we didn’t even consider taking out the students. We welcomed them for the learning environment,” Dorotheo said.
Dorotheo added they did some modifications. For example, students did not take any isolation patients because the hospital did not want to deplete its personal protective equipment, which was in short supply when the pandemic started.
“Even now with enough PPEs they still do not take care of isolation patients,” Dorotheo said.
Some of the 43 nursing students who will graduate at the end of January could end up with a job at the hospital.
“I like the program in AV College and I take a lot of new grads in that pool,” Dorotheo said. “Since I know the teachers I asked for recommendations who they think best would fit.”
Dorotheo also gets to know the students during clinical orientation.
“That’s our pool where we get our new candidates and I like them because they’re local,” she said.
AV College has permitted its nursing students to come onto the Lancaster campus, which is closed during the pandemic, to continue their education for required laboratory work. The students work in small groups and all safety protocols are followed.
“There are a lot of colleges that they’ve not even allowed on campus, and we’ve been able to do essential labs and do some of the things that we have to do, and it’s because the president is so supportive, and the Board,” Scudmore said of AVC President Ed Knudson.
AV College nursing student Diana Betancourt was inspired to pursue a career in the field because she knew there was a high demand for nurses and that it offered the possibility to be financially stable. She also considered nursing a noble and highly respected career.
“However, my mentality changed once I started my clinical practice,” Betancourt wrote. “As I began to have more contact with patients, I realized how rewarding it was to be able to provide comfort and focus on the health and wellness of others. I now say that I have a passion for nursing.”
Betancourt added the pandemic made things harder for students and instructors because many things had to be modified.
“The nursing program is very intense and dealing with the pandemic at the same time was extra challenging,” she wrote. “I had to incorporate some coping strategies into my life such as yoga, meditation, and relaxation techniques to handle stress. Everything was so unpredictable and scary but I feel grateful to Antelope Valley College’s faculty and the facilities that allowed students to continue with the program.”
Betancourt thanked Kaiser and Palmdale Regional for welcoming AV College students.
“The experience I acquired during the clinical rotations to these facilities is immeasurable,” she wrote.
Student Gladys Lua was inspired to become a nurse at a very young age.
“I remember watching nurses bring my family back to good health which in turn filled me with passion and gave me a purpose in life to do the same for others,” Lua wrote in an email. “Antelope Valley College and the entire staff have been amazing and extremely supportive. They have gone above and beyond to make sure we get the most out of our program while keeping us safe during the pandemic. I handle my stress by reminding myself of the many reasons I am becoming a nurse. I am very grateful that my goal to become an RN will soon be accomplished. I owe my gratitude to the amazing staff of Antelope Valley College and the facilities and hospitals that opened their doors for us during the pandemic.”