VCU nursing students run COVID-19 call center for hospitalized patients

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 6:08 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - In collaboration with VCU Health, VCU School of Nursing set up a call center to help COVID-19 patients at VCU Medical Center with their discharge information while educating patients on their road to recovery.

The idea for the call center came out of a need when in-person clinicals for nursing students were temporarily stopped in the middle of January to adhere to pandemic guidelines in the hospital.

Dr. Shelly Smith, director of the doctor of nursing practice program at VCU School of Nursing, says the call center was set up inside the auditorium of their school. Every Tuesday and Wednesday, Smith says students would sign up for shifts to call COVID-19 patients getting ready to leave the hospital.

“We had a lead care coordinator who would send us a list of COVID positive patients who were ready for discharge,” Dr. Smith said. “The students would call into their room and do a COVID teaching.”

Dr. Smith says COVID teaching includes information about the procedures patients should follow outside of their hospital room.

“The COVID teaching focuses on infection control, social distancing guidelines, monitoring your symptoms at home,” she said.

A lesson Dr. Smith says goes beyond the classroom to show students a new normal for telehealth.

“The whole healthcare industry shifted to telehealth and all its iterations,” she said. “This was an opportunity to teach students about something that is here to stay that’s otherwise not really integrated into traditional curriculum at most schools of learning.”

Sandra Williams, a student in VCU School of Nursing’s Master’s in Nursing program, was one of the students involved in this initiative.

Williams has been lending a helping hand to help COVID-19 patients in the hospital since the start of the pandemic last year. The call center gave her a chance to expand her skills.

“I see that blessing in COVID-19 that I will be able to provide care to my patients, whether it’s through video monitoring or telephone,” Williams said.

Williams will be graduating on Friday to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner.

Dr. Smith says when students were able to return to in-person clinicals, they still kept the call center open. She said she has a meeting with the health system next week to talk about future opportunities for nursing students to help with patient education.

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