Contributed article from Okanagan College
“The community needs us.”
It’s a statement that has become a rallying cry for a class of Okanagan College practical nursing students who are only weeks away from completing their studies and joining their teachers on the front lines.
And like many other OC health care students and grads, their actions are speaking even louder than their words in the face of COVID-19.
Jodi Kemp is one of those students who is stepping up in a big way to support her community, her profession and the nurses she is training alongside at Kelowna General Hospital this month.
The Kamloops native and veteran health care worker is letting nothing stand in the way of becoming a nurse and providing the care she knows is needed in her community now more than ever.
“I’ve got one shot at this, so I’m determined to get it done,” said Kemp, who embraced the challenge of going back to school after a 20-year career as a care aid. It has already been a path not without sacrifice – for now, it means living hours away from her husband and son who remained back home in Kamloops.
“I’ve always been passionate about health care and about helping people. This has been a dream of mine for a long time,” she said.
“And in light of what’s going on the world right now, I’m more convinced than ever I made the right choice. I want to make a difference in someone’s life – in many people’s lives.”
Kemp is on track to step out into the workforce soon as an LPN, although COVID-19 threatened to put that dream on pause last month.
In mid-March, Kemp and 27 of her LPN classmates in two programs learned that the College was faced with having to postpone their preceptorships – the final stage of their practical training – out of concern for their safety when COVID-19 popped up and cases began to mount in the Interior Health region.
The students made an impassioned plea to instructors to allow them to continue their training without disruption. They penned a letter to the college and rallied support from their fellow nurses at KGH, to demonstrate both the need for their skills on the front line and the profuse safety protocols they’ll be following to minimize risk.
“Our first priority is always the health and safety of our students,” said Yvonne Moritz, dean of science, technology and health at the college.
“We took the time to consider the matter in great detail with Interior Health. They determined and advised us that the risk to students was low and that as long as proper safety protocols are followed, proper PPE is worn, and all the right steps are taken that our students are very much needed and should be allowed to complete the final stages of their program if they choose to. We also ensured students knew they had the option to say no if they didn’t feel comfortable going out on practicum or preceptorship right now.”
After being given the go-ahead from Interior Health, the college allowed the PN students to return to their preceptorships to complete the final days of their program. All 28 of them chose to take the step.
Kemp and her peers have high praise for both their mentors from Interior Health and their instructors at OC for the way in which they’ve prepared students to deal with the added stress of learning and working in a pandemic.
“The nurses we’re doing our preceptorships with have been incredible,” said Kemp.
It takes a special kind of person to do your job well in a situation like this, while also providing those learning opportunities, taking the time to really prepare us for what we’ll soon be doing on our own.
“I’m very grateful for the excellent training I’ve received on practicum and at OC, and now I’m just looking forward to getting out into the workforce and supporting those nurses who need us right now, who need the relief. We need them today and tomorrow they’ll need us, is the way I look at it.”
The PN students aren’t the only ones stepping up during the crisis. Students in the Health Care Assistant (HCA) program have also stepped forward to continue their practical training if they choose to.
“Our students are part of the health care system and for them to be out there at this time is a testament to their dedication to a career in helping others,” said Moritz.
“While health care workers are always needed, now is the time they are needed most.”