Nursing Faculty Member Brings Experience and Compassion to Campus
When the Coronavirus struck, it caught a lot of people flat-footed. There were endless questions and plenty of uncertainty, even among healthcare providers. Some, however, were prepared, including Virginia Beach Campus Nursing faculty member Courtney Fizer who also works at a local hospital. Earlier in her career, she worked as an infectious disease nurse under a doctor who had taught her all about viral loads and transmissions. In fact, she got somewhat of a trial run during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak.
“It really prepared me for this pandemic,” says Ms. Fizer. “From the beginning, I sensed it was going to get bad. I decided I would use this crisis as a teaching moment with my students.” Ms. Fizer began assigning her students research projects centered on topics such as:
- Virus transmission
- Strains of the coronavirus
- Viral load and how it affects the human body
- The difference between Covid-19 and the influenza virus
- The importance and use of personal protective equipment
- How a healthy immune system can help fight off viruses and other illnesses
“I will tell you that many of my students have complimented me, saying, ‘Ms. Fizer, you were making us wear masks long before they made it policy!’ and it is true. I have been wearing masks, goggles, and face shields since the last part of March, as I also have an elderly parent at home and didn’t want to bring anything home to her.
“The work environment in acute care during this time has changed a great deal, and I think it’s for the better. It has provided all of us an opportunity to sharpen our skills in areas related to disease transmission. As a whole, the healthcare system has moved from the very fearful state of the unknown to now knowing how to protect ourselves from potentially catching and spreading this virus. For me, the most fearful time was back in March, when no one was wearing a mask. Now that it is a requirement for everyone, I am very comfortable in the hospital. The biggest risk is during breathing treatments, due to the virus being aerosolized during nebulized treatments. So as a precautionary measure, we stay free from the patients’ rooms for one hour after the administration of the breathing treatment. The hospital I work for even mandates that patients wear masks as well.”
Having working professionals on faculty is what makes an ECPI University education so valuable. Educators take everything they see and do within the clinical setting and share it in the classroom. Ms. Fizer knows the value of mentorship because she experienced it herself as the daughter of a nurse. In fact, her mother was her first charge nurse. “Seeing her caring for others, leading by example, deepened my own desire to provide the highest level of care, both in terms of quality and compassion,” she says.
“The work environment in acute care during this time has changed a great deal, and I think it’s for the better. It has provided all of us an opportunity to sharpen our skills in areas related to disease transmission.”– Virginia Beach Campus Nursing Faculty Member Courtney Fizer
Now, Ms. Fizer serves as a role model to her students, as she helps to prepare new nurses like Jawawna Baker who recently completed her final clinical rotation. “Jawawna is prime example of what we stand for here at ECPI University,” she says. “She’s always had such a hunger to learn. She is going to be an amazing nurse. She simply loves caring for others!”
While Jawawna never imagined she would conclude her education amid a pandemic, she is grateful for the lessons learned. “One day we were sitting in the classroom and the next day everyone was home with their children and families trying to push forward and focus while still trying to stay positive,” she says. It has, however, not been easy. “I saw pictures of stacked body bags in New York where I was born and raised, which made me want to go see and hug my family,” says Jawawna. “I ended up losing my god brother and reality hit me hard when I realized that people are suffering and feel alone with no family or familiar face to be by their side to comfort them. At that moment, I knew that it was my time to be there for them as more than than just a care partner, but also a friend, a daughter, a niece, a neighbor or whoever my patients need me to be to provide them with hope, a smile, and comfort.”
It’s that outlook that lead Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital to name Jawawna Employee of the Month for her unit. “It blesses my heart to see how far she has come,” says Ms. Fizer. “The hardest thing to teach someone is compassion for others. I can show you what compassion looks like, but compassion comes from the heart! She now cares for her patients with such ease, walks into a room and takes charge, knowing and anticipating how to care for the patient. I call her a little mini-me!”
“I ended up losing my god brother and reality hit me hard when I realized that people are suffering and feel alone with no family or familiar face to be by their side to comfort them. At that moment, I knew that it was my time to be there for them as more than just a care partner, but also a friend, a daughter, a niece, a neighbor or whoever my patients need me to be to provide them with hope, a smile, and comfort.”– Virginia Beach Campus 2020 Nursing Graduate Jawawna Baker