SJVC Registered Nursing Student Supports Community by Volunteering in the Fight Against COVID-19
Breanna Mercer might seem like the average student pursing her dream, but the work she has been doing for her community is nothing less than exceptional. Currently a student at San Joaquin Valley College’s Visalia campus in the Registered Nursing – LVN to RN Bridge program, Breanna knew she wanted to work in nursing at a young age.
Breanna attended Exeter High School where she used to joke with her friends on how they all could see themselves becoming nurses. They thought it seemed like a wonderful career with the added benefit of being able to care for others and do some good for the community.
“The idea of helping people heal and become healthy again was just so intriguing and empowering; and I still feel that way,” said Breanna.
However, after she graduated in 2008, she was the only one of her friends to pursue that career path. Having worked in Kaweah Delta’s cafeteria since the age of 16, she had direct experience with that profession. It wasn’t just a light-hearted joke about what could be; it was a serious career goal as she fell in love with the hospital and environment.
“It was so exciting and fast paced,” added Breanna. “I knew I wanted to do nursing at a young age, and this was the perfect way to help me see what the environment was like.”
Breanna ended up getting into the LVN program in 2011 and finished in late 2012. Initially she was able to get an LVN position at Kaweah Delta’s Rehabilitation Hospital and worked there for 3 years, followed by Case Management for one year, Float Pool LVN for two years, and is currently a DSD/Clinical Educator for Kaweah Delta’s Skilled Nursing Units (Rehab, TCS and Subacute).
Breanna had turned 30 and was on a path to professional and personal success. She was named Vice President of her class and had received her DSD certification as well as her Ultrasound IV Certification as an LVN. Even with an amazing two-year-old daughter, which makes going through an RN program a little challenging, she was able to excel in both her studies and her profession at Kaweah Delta.
And then there was COVID-19.
Like many hospitals, the staff at Kaweah Delta was put to the test in dealing with one of the worst pandemics in recent history. Pressed for support and a need for community testing, the hospital set up a “Swab Station” where incoming patients were referred to and scheduled. They are able to drive up and be swabbed for COVID-19 without even having to leave their vehicle. Though there is a lot more to it than simply driving up and getting tested.
“There is a huge team working behind the scenes to make this easy for the person being swabbed,” said Breanna. “We see about 80-130 people a day, if not more. In the background they have a scheduler and several people helping get the paperwork together. It is a huge process. I think that the nurses leading this did an amazing job of putting it together because when it runs smoothly, it alleviates the pressure on the emergency department, doctors’ offices and urgent cares in the community, not to mention preventing the spread,” added Breanna.
And when local hospitals such as Redwood Springs and Linwood Meadows were in a state of emergency for staffing, Kaweah Delta decided to step in and assist. Breanna was specifically tasked with putting together an orientation plan for Kaweah Delta’s staff to go out to these locations and prepare them for the work that they would be doing. She wanted their nurses to feel confident and know the type of situation they would be getting into so they could direct their staff to better assist incoming patients.
Breanna wasn’t just swabbing people and testing for COVID-19, she was using her skills and experience to assist staff at other local hospitals for dealing with an increase in patients. This is an important part of mobilizing a healthcare workforce in a time of emergency. This is also a vital step for communities to fight the spread of infection and safely test those who may have already been infected.
“For the swab station most of my co-workers were volunteering because we are considered Ancillary Staff, but because of my background as an LVN I could be of further assistance,” said Breanna. “For the orientation preparation with the nursing homes in our community, I was asked by my director to help because I have my DSD certification (Director of Staff Development), which gives me a lot of insight on nursing homes, Title 22 and state regulations,” added Breanna. “I was very happy to assist in the community and put my certification to good use.”
As with any pandemic such as COVID-19, nurses play an important role both locally and globally. They are on the front lines and are able to see what is working, as well as things that can be done differently to provide more effective and efficient care. The pandemic is heightening the need for team-based care, infection control, person-centered care, and other skills that really speak to the strengths of nurses. As we work on recovery, we’re going to see an increased demand for nursing expertise and leadership while students like Breanna serve as an example for others to follow.
“This field of work can be scary at first. It is not easy, nor should it be,” says Breanna. “It takes a lot of mental strength and compassion, but it is very rewarding. The longer you are in the field the stronger you will become.”
Learn more about SJVC’s Registered Nursing program.
Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.