Mary Watson Vergnolle | Staff Writer
Although the Baylor nursing school has also had to pause their social gatherings due to COVID-19, there are still many opportunities for students to continue forming relationships with one another as well as with the professional faculty and staff in Dallas.
Monica Mullins, director of student services for Baylor nursing, described her role in connecting current nursing students to pre-nursing majors transitioning from Waco.
“We bring the college experience [and] all of the support and services that are typically available to students on the main campus to our junior and senior nursing majors here,” Mullins said.
Mullins, who joined the nursing school staff six years ago, is familiar with the Waco campus. She said she has spent her career working closely with students of all majors and Baylor colleagues.
“I was very familiar with Baylor, the culture and traditions, and have a lot of friends that work at Baylor,” Mullins said.
In her role helping students transition to the nursing school, this familiarity enables Mullins to connect well with the students new to the Dallas campus.
Although Mullins said that the restrictions on social gatherings can sometimes be a challenge, she is dedicated to providing support and encouragement to nursing students as they make the change to a new environment.
Efforts such as new student experience classes and the Future Baylor Nurses Association (FBNA) connect pre-nursing students and work to create a close-knit community on the Waco campus.
One of the largest ways students connect after going to Dallas are through lab and clinical courses that are attended in small groups. Here, new students are able to collaborate with and learn from upperclassmen.
“[Engaging in clinical] is one of the things that nursing students most look forward to,” Mullins said. “For them, it is this big deal that all they do when they come here is directly related to their chosen profession.”
In a normal year, the school of nursing engages in a lot of social events such as Dr. Pepper Hour and lunch gatherings throughout the semester. Yet another way to connect current students with their pre-nursing counterparts, who just made the move to Dallas.
Mullins is hopeful for in-person events beginning after the moratorium is lifted on Feb. 7. She said the outdoor green space on campus for students and hospital staff may be a possible gathering place.
“[It] makes it very easy for us to have safe and secure outdoor events because that’s space that’s not open to the public,” she says. “Our outdoor space is completely protected.”
Due to the nature of the nursing profession, Mullins believes that the maturity levels of students in Dallas, combined with the work they do in hospitals, has proven to be a COVID-19 conscious environment. She said she is in charge of all the COVID-19 testing and has 100% compliance.
“From day one [I have been] so proud of our president, our leadership and the guidance and the resources they have given us,” Mullins said about Baylor administration. “I think it’s why we are still in-person.”
Mullins emphasizes that nursing students want to participate in service and worship opportunities as soon as they are able and continue to remain involved despite restrictions.
Bears Helping Hearts, a student chapter of the Children’s Heart Foundation, is beginning this semester at the nursing school and will be recognized as the second college chapter in the country, behind the University of Florida.
Many nursing students also recently traveled to Waco to help administer vaccines to the community at the Waco Convention Center. Mullins said these students are receiving academic credit as well as gaining clinical experience. She said she believes volunteering to administer vaccinations will occur frequently throughout the semester.
“There are about five hospitals that have asked for our students to come and assist with vaccine administration,” she says. “They will also have the opportunity to be vaccinated if they haven’t been already.”
Edmond, Okla. pre-nursing sophomore Megan Brown has recognized the ongoing significance of the nursing school as a place that seeks to serve their community.
“I think that being a nurse is a great way to give back to my community and serve the Lord,” Brown said. “I love that it is a small community and a tight-knit group of people. It is very easy to connect with others because we all share core beliefs.”
Mullins said she is hoping for more social gatherings this semester though, so students can make more meaningful connections.
“Right now, the weight of the profession is more visible,” Mullins said. “The stressors of nursing school are quite different than the stressors of traditional university degrees, and they get to be with a whole group of people that get that.”
Although COVID-19 still remains a central part in the limitation of activities, the Baylor nursing school is still finding ways to connect with the local community and one another.