The Coronavirus Pandemic Hits Home

The College of Nursing in action and service

by Susan Neale

The coronavirus pandemic spread to Ohio in March, and The Ohio State University quickly moved into action. Spring break was extended an extra week and students were moved out of the residence halls. President Michael V. Drake asked faculty to convert all classes to an online format. Ohio was one of the first states to ask all citizens not providing essential services to stay home. As students left campus and university buildings closed, many of our faculty and staff volunteered to help The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center with patient intake and at the call center, and Buckeye Nurses at Ohio State, across the country and around the world answered the call for help.

Buckeye Nurses head to New York City

On March 30, Laura Brubaker, RN, accepted a six-week travel nurse position in New York City, the part of the country most severely hit by the pandemic. She would start work a week later at Jacoby Hospital, part of a huge hospital system. From there, she might be floated to any hospital in the city to help COVID-19 patients. By April 3, the total number of cases in New York state already numbered 102,863; deaths numbered nearly 3,000.

Brubaker had served two stints as a travel nurse in California. “Travel nursing is fly by the seat of your pants," she said. "You get about one day of orientation and then you’re thrown into things. It’s fun, but hard because you don’t have the support of your friends and everything is up in the air,” including where you will live and how you will get there.

Laura Brubaker with Brutus

As nurses, we’re helpers. It’s part of who we are, our core personality, not just our career.

— Laura Brubaker, BSN, RN

A student in the Master of Science in Nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner program and contingent nurse at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital, Brubaker has had experience with situations requiring personal protective equipment (PPE) before. She has also worked on Riverside’s COVID-19 floor. To reassure her mother about her new assignment, she said, “I told her we deal with the big bad bugs every day, like C. diff [Clostridium difficile]…to me it’s not as scary as long as we can be protected and wear our PPE.” Brubaker worried, though, about reports that supplies of PPEs were running out.

“As nurses,” she added, “we work with stuff that makes the public cringe.”

On target to graduate in May, Brubaker said that while it was sad that the graduation ceremony has been indefinitely postponed, “It's hard to feel bad for myself, because people are dying.” She sees her service in New York as a way of helping others, and also gaining experience and clinical hours. “It’s nerve wracking just to sit at home and watch everything happening and not be doing anything about it,” Brubaker said. “I like to be doing things, helping out.”

Undergraduate student Jill Jones was also heading to New York. “I've just accepted a crisis position in NYC to help out,” she texted in March. “I know it's not going to be easy, but I look forward to helping and being an asset to the area.”

Caring for COVID-19 patients in Ohio

In Ohio, Buckeye nurses and healthcare providers prepared for the influx of more COVID-19 patients. Many volunteered to help at hospitals. Others already at work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities faced new challenges and witnessed acts of heroism every day.

“Although this is such a hard time for all of us, it is amazing how we all can keep somewhat sane and keep showing up to battle this head on,” said Earnest Hardiman, MSN, APRN, NP-C ('16), a nurse practitioner in cardiac surgery. “This will make us stronger in every way and we will be proud of what we see at the end of this. It is a blessing we are able to still make a living during this and more of a blessing to become the only family some of our patients get to see during this time. I've bonded with many of my patients as I make time to sit with them and talk through many of their frustrations. Spread positivity and hope, we all will get through this and be better for it.”

Nursing Administrator Tammy Moore, PhD, (’15 PhD) of The Ohio State University Brain and Spine Hospital reported, “I have the opportunity every day to observe the great work of our nurses, PCAs, UCAs, NPs, therapy and physician colleagues tackle COVID-19. You have stepped up, you are leading, you are healing and you are saving lives!”

At the College of Nursing: virtual town halls and online teaching resources

The College of Nursing was ready with technological resources to address new communication needs. The college’s executive team held virtual town hall meetings for faculty, staff and students from every academic program to answer questions and share information. Our online teaching team quickly assembled resources to help all of our classes go online, and faculty created virtual clinical materials so that students could complete their clinical hours.

The college created a resource page on their website for students, faculty and staff to help them navigate this confusing and challenging situation:

In April, Ohio State President Michael V. Drake announced that the university would hold a historic virtual commencement on May 3 with Apple CEO Tim Cook delivering the commencement address. The class of 2020 would be able to graduate and join the workforce of healthcare professionals so needed today.

Wellness and anxiety resources

University Chief Wellness Officer and College of Nursing Dean Bernadette Melnyk created wellness resources for faculty and staff, students, parents and people newly working from home to help them deal with anxiety about COVID-19 and maintain their wellness. These tips and a video of her webinar, “Key Strategies for Staying Calm and Allaying Anxiety in Yourself and Your Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” can be found at The Ohio State University Health and Wellness website.

Wellness classes online

Chief Wellness Officer Bern Melnyk called in several wellness partners to create an eight-week program, “Staying well and calm in the midst of the COVID-19 storm: Evidence-based tactics that work!” This series of free webinars addressed issues such as how to get good sleep, practice mindfulness, eat healthy, stay positive, maintain social wellness and use cognitive behavioral skills to allay depression and anxiety about the pandemic.

Video recordings of these lectures are available at


Challenging times call for innovative answers. In response to the current worldwide outbreak, the Innovation Studio launched a “Coronavirus Challenge” for students, faculty and staff to innovate services, solutions or products that could impact how COVID-19 is changing our world.

College of Nursing delivers equipment and supplies to Wexner Medical Center

The college donated thousands of critical care supplies to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, including hand sanitizer, gloves, gowns, coveralls, caps, masks and other safety gear, and lent the Medical Center equipment including three ventilators, 19 hospital beds and three gurneys. Many of these items came from the Technology Learning Complex (TLC).

ANA launches effort to prevent nurse suicide

In January, The American Nurses Association (ANA) convened the Healthy Nurse Healthy Nation Strength Through Resiliency Committee to prevent nurse suicide. College of Nursing faculty active on the committee include Bern Melnyk, (co-chair), Sharon Tucker, PhD, APRN-CNS, NC-BC, EBP-C, FNAP, FAAN, and Jacqueline Hoying, PhD, RN, NEA-BC. Nurses are an at-risk population for work-related stress, burnout and suicide, especially under the strain of the new coronavirus pandemic. This committee is developing and collecting mental health resources for nurses, including those for suicide prevention.

Mental health resources for nurses

Worldviews themed issue focuses on nurse/clinician mental health and well-being

Sigma Theta Tau International’s journal WORLDviews on Evidence-Based Nursing produced a special January/February issue focused on nurse/clinician and learner burnout, depression and suicide, inlcuding interventions to enhance well-being. Featured reports included the first longitudinal analysis of nurse suicide in the country and results from a six-month MINDBODYSTRONG cognitive-behavioral therapy intervention for nursing residents.

Learn more


College Launches National Health and Well-being Hub for Nurses

The College of Nursing and Trusted Health are partnering to promote mental/emotional health and well-being support for travel nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. The National Health and Well-being Hub includes an emotional support line and a wellness support partnership program staffed by nurse practitioner faculty and advanced practice (APN) students. Launched in April, the program piloted with nurses in New York City and southeast Michigan. This innovation was made possible through a grant from Trusted Health to the College of Nursing, and is being led by Alice Teall, DNP, APRNCNP, FAANP, NC-BC and Bernadette Melnyk, PhD, APRN-CNP, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN.

“Our healthcare professionals on the front lines of this pandemic deserve not only our highest regards for their selfless service, but also our support to handle what they are feeling and experiencing because of this crisis,” Melnyk said. “Our college’s faculty, staff and students participating in this effort are well-versed in evidence-based interventions that will not only help these nurses survive, but thrive and build the resilience needed to continue to provide high-quality care and save lives.”

Nurses employed by Trusted Health can access the emotional support line staffed by nurse practitioner faculty and supervised APN graduate students, who will review stressors with callers and offer coping strategies and stress-reduction techniques. Nurses who call the emotional support line may opt to participate in a wellness support partnership program supported by the College of Nursing for a period of four or eight weeks. This will include cognitive-behavioral skills building, motivation, mindfulness and therapeutic communication aimed at finding sustainable solutions to enhance the nurses’ health and well-being, both during the pandemic and for life.

The students and faculty providing this support to nurses on the front lines are working on a volunteer basis as part of their commitment to give back to their profession.

Learn more

New tools help healthcare professionals communicate with COVID-19 patients unable to speak

Speech-language experts from The Ohio State University and across the country have teamed up to produce a free online suite of tools and resources for healthcare professionals to utilize in the treatment and care of patients battling COVID-19 who are unable to speak.

Mary Beth Happ, PhD, RN, FGSA, FAAN, associate dean of research and innovation at the College of Nursing, is a member of the Patient Provider Communication Forum and a co-creator of the Study of Patient-Nurse Effectiveness with Assisted Communication Strategies online communication training and demonstrations.

“We designed these tools to be low-tech, easy-to-use and, above all, helpful to clinicians on the front lines of the fight against this pandemic,” said Happ. “The faster clinicians can understand what their patients are experiencing – especially those patients who cannot speak – the better they can respond to their patients’ needs during treatment and recovery.”

The tools, including signs, charts, videos and tips are available online at