Students who are expected to go out into the community to fulfil student clinical requirements may be feeling uncertain of what lies ahead with the continued spread of COVID-19, but Marshall University staff members said they will do what they can to ensure students graduate.
“The first thing is that we need students to trust us, and I know that can be hard, but they have to try,” said Teresa Eagle, dean of the College of Education and Professional Development. “If they can just kind of put themselves in our hands, we’re going to do everything possible to make sure everything works out.”
Eagle said the CoEPD includes students of education, psychology and counseling majors, who all have clinicals that require them to go out into communities to either teach, counsel or just observe situations with others.
For education students, Eagle said each public school may have their own circumstances when it comes to starting back this year, but the administration is working to place students where they can get their required number of teaching hours, and she said they will work with students individually in the event of another school shutdown.
“We’ve got all these different scenarios for what people are possibly going to see in schools and schools are going to be different,” Eagle said. “We don’t know what it’s going to look like. And we’ve got people all over, so we’re trying to do the best thing for the student, which may include working with them to let them do placements where they can.”
As for counseling and psychology students expected to perform clinicals, Eagle said they may have a better opportunity to find placements for clinicals because
not only are they typically one-on-one sessions, but telehealth has become a more common practice for counseling and therapy sessions amongst the pandemic.
“These are people that go out and test and meet with individual students, so they are not in a classroom setting as much as they are an individual setting,” Eagle said. “But telemedicine actually got them an opportunity to have counseling students exposed to a different kind of way to work with clients and patients, so it’s been really interesting to see that.”
Michael Prewitt, dean of the College of Health Professions, said health professions majors include a wide variety of students who are required to complete clinicals. He also said these students are not just curious about whether Marshall would be staying open for the semester, but they also have to worry about their clinical sites staying open.
“The big if is the hospitals and agencies themselves,” Prewitt said. “They have restrictions right now on placing students in the sites. That’s what happened in March and April, most of the hospitals were not accepting our students so it wasn’t up to us, they sort of closed their doors. Right now, most of them are opening up and I think most students will be able to go back (into clinicals) in the fall.”
Prewitt said in the event that clinical sites restrict access for students, he hopes students understand that graduation could be delayed because of accreditation requirements, but the students’ safety is most important.
“If you’re testing student skills, you need to be doing that in person,” he said, “but the safety of the students is paramount. So, we have protocols in place for what students should do when they report to a clinical site. And the sites will require a daily survey the students will fill
out quickly in terms of their health status, temperature and so forth.”
Prewitt and Eagle both said that not all clinicals require for students to physically be in another room with other people. Telehealth aside, some clinicals just require observations. While before the coronavirus spread a student may have been in a center or a school for observations, the students will also have access to videos and virtual sessions to complete observational clinicals.
The College of Health Professions also has a simulation site on the fourth floor of Corbly Hall where nursing students can go and showcase a range of skills with advanced mannequins that can be programed to show symptoms of different medical situations.
While some students may have concerns about being sent home from campus if there is another spike in coronavirus cases, both Prewitt and Eagle have plans. Prewitt said they have been given permission to keep health professions students on campus who are involved in clinicals, if the clinical site is still allowing student access. Eagle said they have been working to find placements for students wherever is accessible, including, possibly, schools in the student’s home county.
Eagle said they are working hard to communicate with the university, the Department of Education and students because everyone wants the same thing for the students.
“Everyone is on the same page, they all want students to be successful,” “she said. “Each student is an individual situation, but we work around to make sure it satisfies what Marshall needs and what the state of West Virginia needs.”
Sarah Ingram can be contacted at [email protected] marshall.edu.