April 6, 2020 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – With Grand Rapids Community College's Nursing programs paused during the coronavirus crisis and local hospitals facing a surge of patients, assistant professor Brandi Miller knew she could help.
Miller is one of several GRCC Nursing Department faculty members who are volunteering at Spectrum Health and other area healthcare providers.
Department head Michelle Richter said at least six faculty members volunteered to help fill shifts, and another is sewing and donating face masks. Most of the department’s adjunct professors are employed as nurses at various places in West Michigan and also have picked up shifts.
“The people in our nursing program are passionate about what they do,” said Amy Mansfield, dean of GRCC’s School of Workforce Development. “Helping people is in their DNA, and I’m proud to see them coming to the assistance of our partners in a time of need.”
Last month, the nursing program and other GRCC departments donated more than 70,000 pieces of medical and personal protection equipment to Spectrum Health and other local healthcare facilities and public safety departments as they confront the coronavirus crisis.
Area medical facilities are depleting supplies of filter masks, gloves, disposable gowns, protective eyewear, face shields and bleach wipes because of a surge in patients needing care. Supplies went to Spectrum Health, Holland Home and other healthcare providers. The campus also is allowing Spectrum employees to use GRCC parking lots so they are closer to work.
Miller, a GRCC Nursing alumna who teaches in the college’s simulation labs, said, “It didn't feel right to sit home and do nothing.”
She started working as a resource nurse for Spectrum’s Cardiovascular Surgery Department. While the hospital has cancelled all elective procedures, her department works on critical open heart and vascular procedures and was still operating, although on a reduced schedule.
Spectrum's chief nursing executive then connected her with the nursing education team. Among other responsibilities, this team coordinates onboarding and orientation for all new and experienced nurses and nurse technicians.
As Spectrum mobilizes to respond to the crisis, it's anticipated many of their full-time nurse educators will shift to support front-line staff on the units.
“This left a gap in the central orientation team that I was uniquely qualified to fill, given my background in simulation and nurse education at GRCC,” Miller said. “I've spent the past two weeks onboarding newly hired nurses and nurse techs, including teaching clinical foundation and core classes that involve various nursing skill competencies and simulations. It really has been a win-win: I get to keep doing what I love -- teaching nurses -- and fill a critical need for an important clinical partner.”
Miller said her GRCC teaching experience has been extremely helpful. The simulation operations technician was unavailable when she arrived. The GRCC Nursing Department’s simulation labs have state-of-the-art manikins -- human shaped models used to simulate the human body, responding to medical conditions.
“I was able to immediately jump in and help set up and operate the simulation equipment to keep their course on schedule,” she said. “In only two weeks, I've been able to help facilitate simulations several times, as well as teaching foundational material in Spectrum's core classes. It's validating to see that the content and skills we teach in our GRCC nursing curriculum is highly valued by Spectrum and reinforced throughout their onboarding process.”
Miller said she has seen many former GRCC students on the job.
“They're always excited to pop in and say ‘hello’! As their former instructor, I'm so proud of their enthusiasm to jump in and help out during this unprecedented crisis,” she said.
Grand Rapids Community College offers learners of all ages opportunities to gain credits for degrees or transfer and in-demand career skills leading to rewarding careers. GRCC was established in 1914 – Michigan’s first community college -- and offers affordable classes on weekdays, evenings, Saturdays and online at locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.