“We are in uncharted waters!” That is a statement folks guiding our education system say frequently to one another. December 8th the Administrative Council for the Fred W. Eberle Technical Center met, trying to set a course of action through the coronavirus pandemic that will allow our students to graduate well trained and ready for essential careers right here in West Virginia. Director Rebecca Bowers-Call captains the well-run trade school. She navigates these uncharted waters well.
“One riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” for our council concerns the training of nursing aides. This training is given at the bedsides of nursing home residents. Winston Churchill cleverly gave us this quote in World War II, but it can also apply to fighting and winning our war with COVID-19. Nursing aide training is blocked by health regulations due to the required isolation of COVID-19 patients who reside in nursing homes, as these become “hot spots.” How can we overcome the mystery facing our public health crisis for the safety of the community, which already has substantial spread? How can we untwist the riddle? For sure these 40 current students cannot be subject to undue risk, yet we need them trained to replace current workers sick with the virus. The enigma is, who will do the bedside care?
My my! Solving the education of health professionals for our ever-increasing healthcare needs not only in nursing homes but in hospitals and even doctors’ offices is a monumental task. Right here in central West Virginia our rate of infection is 40.8 / 100,000 residents (when written on December 8th). A rate above 30.0 means “red” or critical danger. Furthermore, in southern WV the infection rate is the 3rd most severe in the USA—105.8 / 100,000 (as of Dec 8th). The virus scourge rages.
Obtaining a history, making a diagnosis, and prescribing treatment is par for the course for this old doctor after 50 years practicing medicine. I recall a history lesson from the bubonic plague of 1665. Among students sent home for isolation to stop the disease spread was a young scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge University, named Isaac Newton. He returned to his home about 60 miles north of the university. It was here, practically in solitude, that Newton would invent calculus, create the science of motion, unravel gravity, and more. The isolation demanded by the plague created conditions in which modern science was created.
The diagnosis for our students to obtain education will lie along the same formulation, I suggest to our FETC Administrative Council.
Furthermore, the prescription will be Newton’s first law of motion—sometimes referred to as the law of inertia. “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”
The instructor of the CNA program developed a list of items to make “take home” kits for the students to use in practicing some skills while on remote learning (stethoscope, blood pressure monitor, etc.) Thus, our 40 nursing aide students can get hands-on training not in traditional settings, but rather in their homes and in the homes of their elders. The credentialing agency has not approved alternate methods of earning clinical hours for our students to become certified, but we continue to find innovative ways for them to at least get some practice. The bedside within the walls of a nursing home are verboten. However, house calls that healers have made from time immemorial are still possible. Up our hollows are multigenerational farms where the grandparents live who need the care. According to Newton, these “objects at rest stay at rest” and our young healing professionals come to them. Lesson learned!