The strain of the coronavirus pandemic strikes different populations in different ways. On Tuesday, May 5 UW alumni and friends heard about two of those ways during The UW Now Livestream event. Clinical professor Barbara Pinekenstein ’73, DNP, RN-BC, FAAN talked about the fatigue and stress that nurses face during this time of extraordinary demand, and Derek Kindle, vice provost of enrollment management and acting director of student financial aid, talked about the ways it makes life difficult for many young Badgers.
Pinekenstein discussed the challenges that nurses face during long hours in care facilities.
Challenges for Nurses
“Today, with COVID, nurses are wearing their personal protective equipment the entire time that they’re in the health care setting,” she said. “The challenges that nursing staff are having: they’re getting headaches from breathing through the masks, they’re getting pressure sores, they’re having neck pain, and it’s very fatiguing being in that protective equipment for 12 hours a day.”
With more than 20 years of experience in nursing instruction, Pinekenstein has seen many fluctuations in the nursing workforce. She spoke about the ways that the nursing shortage is likely to become more acute in the aftermath of the illness. More than 15 percent of COVID cases in Wisconsin involve health care workers. Further, the median age of Wisconsin nurses is 46, meaning that a wave of retirements could negatively impact the rolls of active nurses.
Anxiety for Institutions during COVID-19
Kindle said that, for UW students, this is a time of both economic and academic anxiety. He noted that almost no institution knows what will happen in the 2020–21 academic year.
“Students and families are concerned about whether instruction will be in person or virtual or some sort of hybrid,” Kindle noted. “They want to know whether the fall semester will start at its usual time. … We really want to hit home that UW–Madison will take every consideration into making sure that we provide the best experience for our students, our faculty, and our staff. And we’ll take into consideration first and foremost the safety of our campus and our community.”
Pandemic Threatens Graduation Trends
Prior to the pandemic, UW students had been graduating faster than ever before — in an average of 3.88 years — and leaving the UW with very low levels of debt. By keeping students away from campus and drying up financial assistance, the pandemic threatens those trends. When coronavirus hit, the UW became the first Big Ten institution to offer a student emergency relief fund.
Kindle thanked viewers for the support that UW students have received from alumni and donors. And both he and Pinekenstein answered questions from the hundreds of people who watched the event live.
The UW Now Livestream is itself a response to the pandemic. The UW Now had originally been planned as a series of events in cities across the United States. Instead, the programming is now offered via YouTube and will continue through the spring. The next event will be May 7 and will feature a conversation about old and new UW traditions with seniors Sonam Dolma and Lauren Sorensen, as well as former interim director of admissions Keith White ’70, MA’87 and WFAA’s vice president for advancement, Jeff Wendorf ’82.