Stories from the Frontlines

Ellis Medicine The Belanger School of Nursing

Lisa Bagdan Ph.D, RN, CNE
Ellis Medicine The Belanger School of Nursing

I would like to tell you the story of an Upstate New York hospital-based associate degree program that does extraordinary things—Ellis Medicine The Belanger School of Nursing. This year will be our first Dual Degree Nursing Program (DDNP)/Associate Degree Nursing Program (ADNP) graduation, incorporating our new concept-based curriculum. We are doing it all, and holding on for the ride.

With COVID-19, we had to change things in a hurry. Our faculty and staff were ready for the change as long as it was a benefit to the students. We stayed in the clinical setting as long as it was allowed, then thought fast on our feet and went virtual within two weeks. We had to show the New York State Department of Education and ACEN that we were going to provide the robust program that we promised them, but now virtually. We use the BigBLueButton for classes; branching scenarios using NLN ACES for our virtual  simulations; Zoom for clinical pre- and post-conferences; Kaplan iHuman for clinical teachings; SLACK for faculty communication; Microsoft teams for collaborative meetings; and our learning management system Moodle, which we were accustomed to and that has our syllabus and lesson plans.

We built a virtual graduation for our DDNP and ADNP students. We wanted to celebrate these new graduates who are going out into a new world full of challenges and new beginnings. WE CAN DO IT ALL! And we are proving that. We have student nurses working as patient care technicians in COVID-19 wards. They are proud, as they should be, and we give them a voice every chance we get. Look around—we are all doing amazing things. I am proud to be a nurse and I am proud to be part of this faculty at the Ellis Medicine The Belanger School of Nursing!

For additional background, my dissertation was Incorporating Social Determinants of Health in Associate Degree Programs in 2018. We use the Patient Centered Assessment Method (PCAM) tool in the clinical setting to help the students ask questions to the patients related to mental health, finance, domestic violence, transportation, and medication compliance. Then the student needs to create a plan of care utilizing the tool looking at barriers and finding connections to people, resources and actions needed. Perfect for COVID-19 patients who usually have many obstacles relating to social determinants of health.

You can access the PCAM tool at It was originally used in the primary care setting but is a great educational tool. You may be able to use this to help others incorporate social determinants of health in nursing education.

Each day we see the stories of nurse heroes. Nurses, one after the other, tell of how sad they feel when their patients are hospitalized alone, and how they help them communicate with family members via the internet and let them know how much they care. Their stories are heartbreaking.

But then we witness the exultation as nurses and other members of the health care team escort masked patients through the corridors, away from the hospital. The caring exemplified by these nurse professionals and leaders, their diversity, integrity, and excellence, will be forever etched in our memories.

Here are just a few inspirational stories, in their own words, about what nurses and nurse educators, their colleagues, their institution, or their students are doing to cope and innovate during this crisis.

University of Tampa

Dr. Michele L. Wolf, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC
MSN Program Director, Assistant Professor
University of Tampa
Department of Nursing

Here is a photo of me in the back and Dr. Susan Berg, APRN, in the middle (grey shirt) with our MSN students—nurses (RNs) from last semester who are all now NPs in the community fighting COVID—including Dr. Berg who is in practice as an NP and who has stepped in to work remotely from Florida as a 911 dispatcher to lighten the load for our colleagues at the epicenter of this monster in New York. Dr. Berg was taken from the front lines when she contracted the coronavirus a few months ago and struggled to recover.


Below is a photo of Dr. Berg, APRN, on the front lines before she got sick with the coronavirus.


Below is a photo of Dr. Julie Umberger, APRN, who has never stopped serving on the front lines of COVID-19. This photo is so real! It is the end of a typical day battling the beast! Exhausting, hot, and miserable with all of the PPE required.


Here is a photo of me with COVID nurse hair—I don't care! It's not pretty, but neither is COVID.


I work with Matrix Medical Network as a nurse practitioner and have been fighting COVID in the community since January—before we knew what we were dealing with. I am now working remotely to provide telehealth to the community and to work in testing centers throughout the state to maximize testing.

This summer, faculty (all NPs) are hoping to take some of our MSN students (all RNs) to volunteer with Remote Area Medical (RAM) to provide needed testing in Florida. We will be working at remote COVID-19 testing sites throughout the state to provide access to rural and impoverished communities. Dr. Rom Delacroix, APRN, Dr. Julie Umberger, APRN, and myself will be leading this effort with RAM.

Here is Nicole Weinclaw, a current RN and MSN student at the University of Tampa. She is a nurse at St. Joe's and fighting COVID on the front lines every day. Nicole was supposed to graduate this summer but due to COVID, her graduation date has been pushed to Fall 2020.


Dr. June Bryant, APRN, is a pediatric nurse practitioner and also faculty with us in the Department of Nursing. June is married to Dr. Matt Minick, MD, who is a pediatrician in the community and loyal preceptor to our MSN students. While they have six children who are all now at home with them as they continue to provide their family with the love and the support they need, both June and Matt continue to fight COVID in their practices as MD and NP. While at home, they created a workshop with their children to make masks for the faculty, MSN students (RNs), and anybody else in the community fighting COVID.