I have tried to find the right word or words to describe what is happening at the Mennonite College of Nursing during these trying times. Yet there are times when words are simply never enough. Still, I keep returning to these three words:
As a college, a community, and a nation, we are navigating. Navigating the many challenges that a pandemic presents. Navigating the transition to 100 percent online learning—which we accomplished in just two weeks back in March. Navigating our work in new environments, with new technology, new challenges, and new opportunities. Navigating and negotiating new clinical models. Navigating social isolation.
In a year fraught with misinformation and fear, MCN focused on doing what we have always done: remaining strong and steady in the face of adversity, and serving as a resource for our community. We dedicated ourselves to educating about the pandemic, shaping the narrative with facts, and working closely with our clinical partners to allow us into clinical sites. Weekly, then monthly, we held town hall meetings to convey clear and accurate information and to provide a forum for sharing our concerns, sharing our fear, and building community.
We reshaped our processes and practices, prioritizing safety, providing flexible options for teaching, and working hard to make sure our students have critical face-to-face clinical and simulation/skills/assessment experiences. Under the new normal, we screen everyone—every single time they enter the simulation lab. Our students are tested for COVID-19 weekly. We established a COVID-19 leader, as well as a COVID-19 committee, to deal with the daily issues that continue throughout this pandemic. Behind the scenes, we continue to advocate for students to be able to take their NCLEX in a timely manner.
Despite all that COVID-19 has thrown at us, we continue to lead—just as we did during WWII, the Vietnam War, the AIDS epidemic, and at other times during our 100-year history. Our Academic Progression initiative continues to help students from across the state advance from their associate’s degree to their bachelor’s degree in nursing. In a moment of true need, MCN took the lead on contract tracing for ISU students in McLean County—a game-changer in the fight against COVID-19. Our NCLEX pass rate for the year is 95 percent, significantly higher than state and national averages. We continue to expand efforts to improve education and practice in the areas of primary care, telehealth, and simulation.
Ultimately, our goal has been to re-shape the narrative, working to see the pandemic as an opportunity to grow, to remake ourselves as educators, and to embrace the rising awareness of how important nurses are in our society. Because now, more than ever, the world needs nurse leaders. In anticipation of that need, we are continuing to grow strategically, such as by launching a new BSN to DNP program in October of 2020.
I hope this finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy. Know that even though we have all been stretched during this immensely challenging year, I have found my heart consoled by the incredible community that surrounds this college, as well as by our inspiring students.
They are our future. They are our hope. Let’s invest in them.
Judy Neubrander, Dean