~ Press release issued by Lord Fairfax Community College
Lord Fairfax Community College nursing students and faculty are playing an important role in helping to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Since the start of June, dozens of students have voluntarily staffed a temporary COVID-19 contact tracing center set up in the Barn on the Fauquier Campus.
Grants from the PATH Foundation, the Claude Moore Foundation and the Culpeper Wellness Foundation have funded the necessary equipment and faculty stipends for the center, said April Achter, population health coordinator for the Rappahannock Rapidan Health District.
The center is staffed by LFCC nursing students three days a week, and by nursing students from George Mason University the other two days. It is scheduled to run through July.
The health department is notified of any positive COVID-19 case, and then contacts the positive patient, according to Amanda Brooks, the Fauquier Campus’s nursing program lead and clinical coordinator. The patient is asked for people they have been in contact with.
Contact tracing center staff then call the patient’s contacts to tell them they have been exposed to someone with the virus, Brooks said.
There are various quarantine and isolation recommendations based on whether the contact has symptoms of coronavirus or not, or whether they live with a confirmed case, according to Achter.
Contact center volunteers ask the people quarantining if they need help with groceries and other needs.
“I’m working in the center to serve my community,” said nursing student Teena Stevic. “We answer questions regarding how COVID-19 is spread, what to do if you have been exposed and how to self-isolate if you have COVID-19. We’ve also had the pleasure of contacting members of the community to give them the good news that their test was negative.”
Brooks said six to 10 students work at the center per day. Students can volunteer up to three days, earning 24 hours of clinical experience.
“As testing for COVID-19 ramped up and states started opening up, it became more important to trace contacts,” Brooks said.
Additionally, nursing faculty from LFCC and GMU provide pharmacology and other instruction on slow days, Brooks said.
Aside from learning this important facet of public health, the nursing students are getting a chance to earn clinical hours at a time when they’ve been unable to earn them in the more traditional way at hospitals.
Many of the hospitals where nursing students earn clinical hours stopped allowing the students to come in starting in March, Brooks said. This was to conserve limited supplies of personal protective equipment and to limit new patients’ exposure to coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the Rappahannock Rapidan Health District needed people who could help trace contacts of those who have been diagnosed to with COVID-19 in an effort to slow the spread of the disease.
“It’s a great opportunity to expose the students to public health,” Achter said. “It’s been a great help to the health district. We’re just like everyone else – starting to transition back to routine services, and this takes a burden off our staff.
“Isolation and quarantine of those who are sick is really an age-old procedure for public health. The time-consuming and labor-intensive process of tracing contacts is the backbone of public health, so these students doing this work absolutely helps us mitigate this illness in our community. We’re grateful to LFCC for allowing us to use the space.”
Steevic said she decided to become a nurse to help close the gap in public health both in the U.S. and abroad.
“Working public health education while in school gave me an opportunity to talk with clients, educate them on the current pandemic, and practice the client communication skills I have been learning during my first year of nursing school,” she said.
Learn more about LFCC’s nursing program by visiting lfcc.edu/nursing.