College of Graduate Nursing MSN-E student Brian Pearring volunteers at the COVID-19 testing site at Fairplex in Pomona Tuesday May 12, 2020. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

About 20 Western University of Health Sciences students from the College of Graduate Nursing and the College of Health Sciences are helping to collect COVID-19 tests at Fairplex in Pomona, California.

The volunteer work is providing the students important clinical hours and valuable experience as they prepare to graduate and enter the front lines of the COVID-19 response.

Fairplex is serving as a drive-through COVID-19 testing site for Los Angeles County, in cooperation with Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center (PVHMC), the Los Angeles County Fire Department and other entities. The site provides a way for Los Angeles County residents to self-administer a free COVID-19 test (click here to learn more) with minimal interaction with others. WesternU students are performing a number of tasks, including checking patients into the system, giving patients the testing kit and providing instructions from a safe distance on how to administer the kit.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused most clinical rotations to shut down, so volunteering at Fairplex provides Doctor of Physical Therapy students with needed clinical hours for graduation requirements, said Janet Konecne, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, Associate Professor and Director of Clinical Education for the WesternU College of Health Sciences Department of Physical Therapy Education.

Although they are not performing physical therapy at Fairplex, this experience mirrors what many inpatient clinical therapists are doing amid this pandemic. Hospitals are having PTs perform other vital tasks to help COVID-19 patients.

“Because of the way we train our doctoral students at WesternU and with our philosophies of health care, our students want to be helpful and they want to contribute,” Konecne said. “To allow them the opportunity to provide service to the community, and to have the medical training to contribute to a team providing the opportunity for the community to be tested is a gift for our students.

“We are able to partner with the county and PVHMC to give them credit for clinical experience,” she added. “It is not the hours of contact they would ideally like, but it is experience and we’re really very fortunate they allowed us to partner with them to keep our students on track for graduation.”

College of Health Sciences Doctor of Physical Therapy student Justine Ekdawy volunteers at a first entry point at a COVID-19 testing site at Fairplex in Pomona Tuesday, May 12, 2020. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

WesternU’s College of Graduate Nursing (CGN) has 12 Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) students assisting with COVID-19 screenings at the Fairplex this week. Clinical rotations for CGN were suspended on March 16 in response to the pandemic.

“Our students are often working on the frontlines themselves, so when this opportunity presented itself, they were happy to rise to the occasion,” said CGN Clinical Coordinator for the MSN program Shelby Reyes, MPH, CHES. “We are allowing our students in our MSN–Ambulatory Care track to utilize the experience at the Fairplex for a portion of their clinical rotations.”

The students are all registered nurses and are scheduled to graduate in July 2020.

“Having the opportunity to respond to a global pandemic while working alongside other health professionals is a valuable, hands-on experience,” Reyes said. “Also, witnessing how health care organizations like PVHMC and county health departments come together to respond and act gives insight to the complexities and need for coordinated efforts to tackle public health issues that arise.”