Contributed by Lee Iapalucci Web & Social Media Director for Cameron School of Business Graduate Programs
With the United States nearing 3.5 million cases of confirmed COVID-19 as of mid-July, this pandemic has impacted Seahawks near and far, particularly those working in the healthcare industry. CSB graduate students in the medical profession are at the front line in this fight against COVID-19, and their story is one of sacrifice and hard work as they have adapted to new regulations, new risks, and even new attire. As they juggle graduate courses in our MBA program, grueling work requirements, and family responsibilities, we are grateful for their dedication.
Theresa Beavan O'Leary, Registered Nurse and UNCW MBA student, works bedside in the Intensive Care Unit in a hospital opened by the Cone Healthcare system to care strictly for the patients who are positive for COVID-19. She shares with us how her daily routine has been affected since March:
“I have extended my work day to arrive to work 20 minutes early to change into hospital provided scrubs and a surgical gown and then get on a CAPAR which includes a helmet contraption attached to a battery pack that provides continuous air through a filter. Several times during my twelve-hour shift I also have to go to a "doffing station," where a person assists me in removing my gear and ensuring safe decontamination practices are met. Another 30 minutes has been added to my workday at the end as well to change out of my hospital scrubs.”
COVID-19 is a larger threat to those who are considered a high-risk patient due to age or pre-existing conditions. Melissa Hale, OTR/ L and UNCW MBA student, works in the occupational therapy sector and she shares how they have adjusted to lower the risk for these patients. “Senior living communities are limiting visitors into their centers and so our operational leadership has had to adapt to a remote support structure while our front-line clinicians are still in the communities delivering essential care,” says Hale.
Not only has the virus affected physical health, it has also taken its toll on the general public’s mental health. Christine Cooper, Psy.D. Supervisory Psychologist and UNCW MBA student, gives us insight. “An incredibly challenging part of my work has been witnessing the psychological impacts of isolation during the height of social-distancing. Without the ability to attend in-person recovery support groups, walk downtown and view smiling faces, or be able to visit loved ones many who are living with substance use disorders or mental health challenges experienced a resurgence of symptoms. These impacts were compounded by the loss of purpose many felt from being unable to work.”
To make up for the loss of interaction, all industries have been required to adapt and find new ways to connect. Utilizing technology and video conferencing has allowed for that lost human interaction to be regained. “This sadness [of watching those become psychologically impacted by social isolation] was balanced against the hope I experienced as I witnessed people of all ages using technology to video-conference for the first time and seeing the joy as group members were able to see each other's faces and connect through telehealth groups,” shares Cooper.
Intensive Care hospitals have adapted to allow patients to interact with their families in a more personal way once visitation was no longer an option. “We have an EICU that is at a satellite location staffed by doctors and nurses that has a camera system which we normally use to help us closely monitor patients when a physician isn't at the bedside. We have been able to use that same camera system to have families camera in to see their loved ones on up to a five-way call. Even patients on life support can see, or at the very least, hear their families talking to them. It has been amazing to use this technology that we've had for years in a new way that brings such comfort to the patients and families during this very challenging time,” shares O'Leary.
Regardless of the heightened demands required of these MBA students by their employment, they have still been able to balance their class requirements. “The online MBA program at UNCW is so flexible that it allows me to complete my courses daily/ weekly as my work schedule fluctuates. It’s one of the things that I love about the program; you don't have to give up your career to further your education,” says Hale. The MBA program allows for flexibility for students to take time off when needed, and to double up when possible. Our advisors work with the students to determine their best schedule.
Maintaining the balance of working full-time and completing an MBA program allows for an enhanced educational journey. O’Leary shares with us how her studies have enabled her to apply what she has learned in the workplace, “I think my education is going to provide me with the insight to help problem solve in ways I didn't know existed before I started this journey, especially when it comes to technology in the business world.” With technology playing a larger role in today’s world, she says “I have become very interested in data analysis and now looking the new information coming out about not only COVID as a disease, but the hospital economics related to COVID as well. It is going to be a game changer going forward for everyone as to how we will be able to maintain a thriving healthcare industry with restrictions on things like the amount of elective surgeries taking place in hospitals that were major income for this industry. I believe that with my MBA I will be better prepared to offer creative guidance and insight into finding new ways to tackle challenges that the healthcare industry is about face.”
Many in the healthcare industry view it as a wildly rewarding field. “In my opinion there is no other field that allows you to positively impact a person’s life as healthcare does. It’s a privilege to provide these services to those in need, whether it be wellness, preventative or critical care all aspects of the spectrum are vital,” says Hale. To keep growing in the field, Hale advises to “remain flexible and open to change and always continue learning. This industry is always changing and my education has shown me that will only continue. Embrace the change and remember your unique value and you will go far in helping others be their healthiest!”
Robert T. Burrus, Jr., Ph.D., is the dean of the Cameron School of Business at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, named in June 2015. Burrus joined the UNCW faculty in 1998. Prior to his current position, Burrus was interim dean, associate dean of undergraduate studies and the chair of the department of economics and finance. Burrus earned a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Virginia and a bachelor’s degree in mathematical economics from Wake Forest University. The Cameron School of Business has approximately 90 full-time faculty members and 30 administrative and staff members. The AACSB-accredited business school currently enrolls approximately 2,600 undergraduate students in three degree programs and 750 graduate students in four degree programs. The school also houses the prestigious Cameron Executive Network, a group of more than 200 retired and practicing executives that provide one-on-one mentoring for Cameron students. To learn more about the Cameron School of Business, please visit http://csb.uncw.edu/. Questions and comments can be sent to [email protected].