Despite the additional challenges they faced to complete their college education during a global coronavirus pandemic, 365 Chattahoochee Technical College students have graduated this spring semester. A commencement ceremony honoring their achievement has been postponed until December.
Many of these recent Chattahoochee Tech graduates will step right into vital roles as first responders in the community’s essential workforce. These graduates include students who trained to become paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT). “The demand for advanced-level health care providers is very high, and many of our graduates already have been working on an ambulance or in a hospital,” said Ryan Dehnert, the Chattahoochee Tech program director for Paramedicine and Emergency Medical Services Professions. “All of our graduates are ready to serve the health care needs of the public. We have a team dedicated to making sure that every student who enrolls in one of our programs is fully equipped to be successful in this career, and to care for the needs of the public in times of medical emergencies.”
When the college needed to suspend on-campus instruction in mid-March this semester due to the coronavirus pandemic, Chattahoochee Tech faculty and staff worked immediately to continue educating students in an online environment. Instructors used technology that included Blackboard Collaborate and WebEx video conferencing. The college also created an online tutoring initiative using Microsoft Teams to connect students with individual tutors online for free tutoring in numerous subjects. “This has proven to be a valuable tool, and I envision this online tutoring will continue even after we return to campus,” said Chattahoochee Tech Dean of Academic Support Julie Holland.
Toward the end of the spring semester, some programs were allowed to return to campus in a very controlled and careful way, in order for students to participate in the essential lab components of their classes. In the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program, for example, only eight students were allowed to be in a lab at the same time. They were required to distance themselves away from each other as much as possible in the lab, and they were required to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). “All students and faculty wore masks and gloves the entire time,” said Chattahoochee Tech PTA Program Director Stephanie Puffer. “All equipment was disinfected after each use, and the entire lab was cleaned and disinfected after each group by faculty. Students were further encouraged to change their clothes prior to entering their homes.”
Chattahoochee Tech plans to continue with a combination of online instruction and carefully controlled, on-campus instruction for essential labs during the summer semester. “I’m excited to say that we are expecting to graduate 21 Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) students this August,” said Chattahoochee Tech Dean of Nursing Quetina Pittman-Howell. Chattahoochee Tech students in the college’s Associate of Science in Nursing program who are training to become Registered Nurses (RN) will graduate in December.
“In the summer, we have identified some targeted days where faculty and students will come to campus for essential labs in the RN program,” said Pittman-Howell. “When faculty and students attend lab, they will be expected to implement social distancing and wear Personal Protective Equipment. The Practical Nursing program will be 100 percent online this summer, because they do not have a lab component in the summer.”
“This season of our lives has taken us by storm, and we’ve been exposed to situations and circumstances that we never thought we would see in our lifetime,” said Pittman-Howell. “But now is not the time to be afraid, timid, or discouraged. This is the time we demonstrate to our peers, our colleagues, our community, and our nation what we as nurses have the ability to do in times of crisis. It is truly an honor to be a nurse educator during this time.”