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Tracking COVID-19 at UCLA2020 Elections

In-person instructors experience excitement, hesitation ahead of return to campus

(Photos by Courtney Quirmbach/Daily Bruin. Photo illustration by Binxuan Zhang/Assistant Design director)

By Bobby Hekel

Sept. 22, 2020 12:45 p.m.

Darah Wilson said she is prepared for the fall and what it entails for her: being one of the first instructors at UCLA to return to in-person instruction.

Wilson is one of the few instructors teaching an in-person course this fall. There will be about 40 in-person classes and around 700 students taking those courses this quarter, said UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez in an emailed statement.

UCLA implemented several COVID-19 measures using guidance from the county and state, Vazquez said, which includes placing classroom seats 6 feet apart, requiring face coverings, monitoring symptoms, surveillance testing and increased sanitation protocols.

UCLA also mandated that all faculty, teaching assistants and students who will take or teach in-person classes receive COVID-19 tests before the start of the quarter, Vazquez said.

Wilson, who will teach the lab component for Nursing 150A: “Fundamentals of Professional Nursing I,” said she will have to distribute the number of students in classrooms during labs and clean her classrooms after each class. To ensure that no classroom has more than the allotted number of students, other instructors will also be teaching the same lab in different classrooms. Wilson will teach three lab sessions with seven students in each class.

With protective measures in place, Wilson said she is mostly unconcerned about teaching this quarter.

Wilson said she looks forward to seeing her students’ faces again, as teaching remotely has been difficult for her. When one of her students told her their grandmother passed away, Wilson could not embrace them – they were separated by a screen, she said.

It is critical to have face-to-face interactions with her students, who will become the next generation of nurses, Wilson said, who is also a nurse practitioner and registered nurse. In-person instruction is vital to teach her students the skills needed to care for their future patients, such as using medical equipment properly, Wilson said.

Glenda Totten, a registered nurse clinical instructor who will teach the lab component for Nursing 174: “Physical Assessment,” said she understands that teaching her lab in person is important but added she has some concerns about teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teaching this fall quarter will be like walking on eggshells to not catch COVID-19, she said. Not only does she have to worry about her own health, but she will also have to consider the well-being of her family – which includes her elderly mother, Totten said.

“The scary thing about this virus is that you may not know that you have it,” Totten said. “You could be perfectly fine without any symptoms, but … (you) can be carrying it and passing it on to anybody who comes close enough to you.”

The skills from Totten’s class, which teaches students how to observe and listen to patients’ bodily functions, has to be done in-person, she said. These skills are fundamental to becoming a nurse, she added.

She added everything should be fine as long as people in the lab follow proper precautions. However, Totten added, nothing is guaranteed.

Totten worked with nursing students over the summer in the hospital as part of a clinical training course, but this fall will be her first time teaching in a lab since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Totten said she will just have to take things day by day.

As a nurse, Wilson said she can handle the novel circumstances. Nurses are creative in the way they approach problems and are constantly thinking about the safety of others, she said. Therefore, if any issues arise she is best equipped to deal with it, Wilson added.

“In the emergency department, we never know what’s coming our way,” Wilson said. “We have to be ready at a moment’s notice for anything and everything, … and that mirrors what we’re about to walk into.”

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