With the sudden need for conserving personal protective equipment (PPE) in our acute care agencies and for the safety of our health professions’ students, all Towson University College of Health Professions (CHP) internships, fieldwork and clinical education were suspended. Students finishing their education and preparing to enter the workforce had a sudden disruption in their education. The challenge for CHP was how to complete the education of essential healthcare workers who could further support the dramatic needs across Maryland and the nation.

Faculty across the College of Health Professions responded quickly. During TU’s spring break, all departments assessed student readiness for graduation and progression by quickly shifting to competency-based case-by-case evaluations of students. With support from each discipline’s accrediting body, faculty have designed clinical simulations and video-based evaluations for readiness for practice. In most cases, these efforts will allow students to enter the workforce with on time completion. In some cases, the College is examining and working with the state and regulatory agencies for early completion for those students who are fully prepared.

Supporting workforce and community needs

The Institute for Well-Being provides needed clinical and wellness services to at-risk populations. To respond and protect the clients, telehealth therapy services and online video-based wellness workouts were being used to provide continuing support during this essential stay-at-home protective order.

Supporting workforce needs, however, is only one way the College has responded. Faculty, staff and students across the College have also quickly pulled their PPE teaching resources and donated widely. Generous donations of PPE from the Department of Nursing and Occupational Therapy and Occupational Science were made to UMM St. Joseph Medical Center, Greater Baltimore Medical Center, UMMS ED and BCPD 6th Precinct. At a time when there was no hand sanitizer available for purchase, all resources from sanitizer to masks, gowns and gloves were donated.

A number of CHP nursing faculty are working on the front lines, screening for symptoms and potential infection. Nursing professor Dr. Teresa Nikstaitis is gowned up to work on the front line at Sinai Medical Center.

Faculty are also reaching out through indirect ways.

  • Dr. Mary Helen McSweeney Feld, a member of Maryland Responds, reports to the Department of Health to credential new volunteer responders so they are ready and able to serve.
  • Adjunct faculty member Dana Gassner is collaborating with AANE (Autism/Asperger Network) to create self-care and hospital preparation videos for families and persons on the autism spectrum should they need acute hospitalization.
  • Professor Emerita and adjunct faculty member Dr. Susan Radius organized her neighborhood to write letters of encouragement to caregiving staff and seniors in local assisted living and nursing home residential communities.
  • Occupational therapy students have organized telephone calls to isolated elderly residents to assess food and financial needs as well as devised a neighborhood network outreach guide to connect older residents with neighbors who can help provide food and resources.

Whether in direct service or indirect service, faculty, staff and students across the College of Health Professions are offering new and unique ways to meet Maryland’s needs during this time of crisis. As the spring semester moves forward, the College will further support community needs with an infusion of graduates prepared to join our healthcare workforce.