PCC on the Frontlines: Appreciating Our Nurses

An integral part of Pasadena City College’s mission is to make a positive impact on the community.

During COVID-19, the college’s focus has not changed. Notably, its nursing program has continued to prioritize and inspire student success while actively providing care to the community around it.

“Our nursing students are participating in healthcare that no one has ever seen and hopefully will never see again,” PCC Nursing Instructor Paula Marie Vento says. “They leapt at the chance to care for patients and learn from nurses on the frontlines of this pandemic.”

Although clinicals were initially canceled due to the state-wide shutdown, PCC’s nursing students have been back in clinicals for the past two weeks, putting them at the fore of the college’s major partner hospital, Huntington Memorial. The hospital specifically requested PCC students to work alongside their nursing staff once it was determined that the reopening of clinicals was safe.

PCC Nurses Appreciation Week
PCC Nursing Students during an OR Rotation at Huntington Hospital

“All at once our students are using every bit of their theory and lab content to become the registered nurses they dreamed of,” says Instructor Vento, whose students are currently assisting in testing and caring for non-COVID hospital patients to relieve nursing staff to care for those who are infected. “They’re doing a great job jumping into the fray at Huntington Memorial Hospital. We all are so proud of them!”

While the months of March and April saw a major shift in nearly every aspect of daily life, PCC’s nursing program took it on the chin and quickly determined the best way to move forward while honoring both its dedication to its students’ education and the well-being of the community.

In a matter of weeks, classes, in-person presentations, events, and trainings were being facilitated online, many of them focused on the topic of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements had created new and unique challenges for both students and faculty alike. But according to Dean of Health Sciences Dr. Micah Young, the commitment to rise above these challenges has been exceptional.

“The nursing faculty has done a remarkable job of transitioning and developing innovative ways to remotely distribute a curriculum that was once thought to be doable only in person,” says Dr. Young. “I’ve watched the faculty go through this change with grace and professionalism; I’ve seen instructors who were reluctant to ever teach in a distance modality embrace this new reality of remote learning. All the while, they’ve demonstrated their ability to be on the frontlines in terms of innovation in educational approaches as well as being on the frontlines in healthcare.”

Many of PCC’s nursing faculty are clinically active, which means they are not only teaching during this unprecedented time but providing care in local hospitals as well.

For Assistant Professor Laurinda Kettle—known to friends and colleagues as Rindy—the job of a nurse is clear: you show up and do what you can.

Rindy Kettle Nurse Appreciation Week
Nursing Professor Laurinda “Rindy” Kettle

“I have been a nurse for over 30 years and I have never experienced anything like this pandemic,” she says. “We are seeing more and more COVID patients. Every nurse is issued one N95 mask per day; you breathe your own CO2 all day, which gives you a terrible headache. The bruises and sores on your face from wearing these tight masks for hours on end are awful. The mental and physical exhaustion…it’s so hard to put into words.”

But as Rindy will tell you, this is just what nurses do. They care for the sick, even if it means putting themselves in harm’s way. “It’s who we are,” she says.

In addition to providing the best possible care for COVID patients at her trauma center in LA county, Rindy dedicates as much of her free time to her PCC students as she can. She gives daily feedback to students as they undergo clinicals without her direct involvement. This requires scheduling specific times to Zoom as a group, which Rindy says can be a real challenge.

“It was initially heartbreaking to think these students may not be able to complete their requirements to take their NCLEX and become RNs. They had spent years getting to their fourth semester and were so close,” she explains. “But when Huntington Memorial said they would take students…it was a gift. The students who decided to do it are having a wonderful experience and are really stepping up and making a difference, which is what nursing is all about.”

In spite of COVID-19, Rindy finds that her students are thriving and learning what it truly means to be a nurse.

If there was ever a time to celebrate nurses, it is now. While nurses should be appreciated year-round—indeed, they are the superheroes who don masks and scrubs as opposed to capes—they are the backbone to our fight against COVID-19. As PCC moves into Nurses Appreciation Week, it is important to remember all of the students, future students, alumni, and faculty that will always be there to care for those in need.

“It’s very encouraging to see that the program is providing care during these extraordinary times,” Dr. Young says. “Seeing students and faculty so committed to their jobs and eager to help and support their community…it just goes to show the impact PCC has in healthcare.”