Wallace State Health Science graduates working on the front lines  

Wallace State Nursing graduate Ashley McClintock is pinned by program Director Deborah “Pepper” Hoover during the May 2019 pinning ceremony. McClintock served as president of her graduating class and was also a Nightingale Award winner.  

HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Practicing medicine during a pandemic was probably something most health care providers in America never thought they would experience, yet that is exactly what they’ve been facing for the past several weeks. Countless graduates of Wallace State’s Health Science programs are on the front lines from emergency responders, nurses, respiratory therapists and more.  

Ashley McClintock, 2019 Nursing graduate, is one of those working on the front lines. A nurse serving in UAB’s Medical Intensive Care Unit, she’s working in the state’s epicenter for Covid-19. The unit is dedicated to caring specifically to positive Covid-19 cases as well as those who have been tested for coronavirus.  

Working a 12-hour shift, McClintock said after clocking in and getting reports from the nurses leaving their shift, the rest of the night is spent caring for her patient or patients to whom she’s been assigned for the night. Depending on the patient’s condition, McClintock said she can spend anywhere from one hour to three or four hours at a time with her patients. That’s to reduce multiple exposures to the virus and to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Since visitors aren’t allowed, McClintock said she’s very aware of the fact that she is one of the few if not only person her patient will see during their shift.  

“It’s always important to have a good relationship with your patients, but right now, we’re all they’ve got. We’re their family for them right now,” she said. “So, it’s important to spend time with them and let them know it’s going to be OK and that we’re there for them.”  

While she said she wasn’t sure if there would have been any way to prepare her for a pandemic, she said Wallace State’s Nursing program did prepare her for taking care of her patients. “Wallace State absolutely prepared me to know how to handle things, how to be a nurse and to take care of my patients,” she said.  

“It was an adjustment, but I felt prepared for it,” said Jed Hardman, another 2019 Nursing graduate. Hardman works in the Madison Hospital Emergency Department. There, the nurses rotate shifts between the traditional ER and a special section set up specifically for patients confirmed or suspected as the coronavirus.  

“If they have symptoms, we treat them as if they are positive,” he said, adding it’s gotten a bit easier with rapid testing that provides a diagnose in a matter of hours rather than in days.  

Both McClintock and Hardman take special precautions when leaving to come home at the end of the day. McClintock said she takes a change of clothes to change into before leaving work for the day. Hardman said his hospital provides them with scrubs they wear while on duty, allowing him to change in and out of those before leaving the hospital. 

Both keep the shoes they wear in the hospital in their cars and immediately change clothes upon entering their homes and head straight for the shower. They each separate and launder their work clothes separately from their families.  

Both are also ready for life to get back to normal but realize that may take several more weeks and they encourage others to maintain the social distancing guidelines.  

“Listen to the people who are in the business,” Hardman said. “The CDC and the World Health Organization who study this and do this for a living. It’s not fun for anyone, but I would take their advice.” 

“I know you want to get out and go places, I do too,” McClintock said. “But stay home and protect yourself.” 

The college and its alumni are supporting those on the front lines with both physical and emotional support.  

The College’s health science division donated its supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) to UAB hospital when it reached out for support. The Agriculture/Horticulture Production program donated hundreds of Easter lilies to brighten the day of residents and employees of Hanceville Nursing and Rehab.  

Employees and students are volunteering in their communities to offer support where they can, making masks, delivering meals, donating food and other necessities.  Alums are working on the frontlines in healthcare and on the supply lines in fields like culinary arts, agriculture, transportation and logistics.  

Nursing alum Jay Terry posted a video for current nursing students and alumni to share some encouraging words and how they’re taking preventative measures to protect themselves and their patients during this time. 

“These are very unpredictable times,” said Terry, a 2018 graduate of Wallace State’s Nursing program and a registered nurse at Children’s of Alabama. But he encouraged everyone to keep their eye on their goals. 

“Keep your mind focused and keep those goals and accomplishments that you have set…and for most of you that’s finishing nursing school,” Terry added. “Keep your mind fixed on that. Write down those goals and those accomplishments and make sure those things are done even in unpredictable times like this. We need to be adaptable to change.” 

The Wallace State Nursing program has been designated as a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League for Nursing. The program is accepting applications through May 15. For more information, visit www.wallacestate.edu.  

Jed Hardman accepts the Nightingale Award from Wallace State Department of Nursing Education Director Deborah “Pepper” Hoover, during the August 2019 pinning ceremony. He also served as vice president of his graduating class.