WSU nursing students will complete part of their clinical education on the Palouse in an arrangement spurred by the pandemic, but long sought by both the College of Nursing and the Pullman community.

The College of Nursing in Spokane, WSU administration in Pullman, Whitman County Public Health and other community partners worked quickly to put the program in place after a rise in COVID-19 cases stretched local nursing staffs thin.

“It’s neighbors helping neighbors and we are glad to be able to assist,” said WSU College of Nursing Dean Mary Koithan.

Students in the College of Nursing’s RN Refresher Course are completing their state-required clinical hours in long-term care facilities, under the guidance of nursing faculty and clinical preceptors. Washington State University is providing apartments for the students in Pullman.

While the first students to take part are registered nurses who are working to re-activate their licenses, the College of Nursing hopes to expand the program to include undergraduate nursing students.

“It’s an elegant solution to a truly heart-breaking situation and incredible need,” Koithan explained.

In a small community like Pullman, there aren’t many nurses who can fill in when a health emergency hits, whether that’s COVID-19 or the seasonal flu, said Troy Henderson, director of Whitman County Public Health.

“COVID-19 has provided challenges for communities around the globe and it’s imperative that we all work together to minimize the impact from this new virus,” Henderson said.

In addition, it’s an opportunity for the College of Nursing to establish relationships with community clinical partners so that it can offer nursing students a clinical experience in Pullman.

For this clinical rotation, RN Refresher Course students will complete all of their required clinical hours in one site, a recommendation consistent with reducing the community spread of COVID-19. Rather than traveling back and forth to different communities, the nursing students will remain in Pullman for their rotation – an arrangement made possibly by the offer of university housing from the WSU Division of Student Affairs.

“WSU Housing and Residence Life are grateful for the nurses who are volunteering to help our community,” said Sean Greene, interim associate vice president for facilities and operations. Students will be temporarily housed in individual apartments and provided with the amenities they’ll need during their stay.

If undergraduate students are able to follow suit and attend a clinical rotation in Pullman, they will also remain in the community for the duration of their experience, participating remotely in their usual coursework online on the days they’re not in clinicals.

Victoria Sattler, clinical placement coordinator for the College of Nursing’s RN Refresher program, said she’s “proud of our nursing students and their willingness to be there for our communities when needed the most.” Added Sattler, who got her undergraduate and graduate degrees from WSU, “Pullman is an integral part of who WSU is and I’m happy we can return the support they so graciously give our university.”