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Coping with COVID-19; home schooling

Maj. Natalie Keith, 403rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron clinical nurse, delivers an immunization to Tech. Sgt. Zach Barnhill, 403rd ASTS medical technician. (courtesy photo from Lt. Col. Natalie McKee/ released with Tech. Sgt. Barnhill's approval)

Maj. Natalie Keith, 403rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron clinical nurse, delivers an immunization to Tech. Sgt. Zach Barnhill, 403rd ASTS medical technician. (courtesy photo from Lt. Col. Natalie McKee/ released with Tech. Sgt. Barnhill's approval)

Fuel Cell specialist in the 403rd Maintenance Squadron, Staff Sgt. Timothy Dalton works in his civilian job as a nurse extern at Terrebonne General Medical Center, Louisiana during the COVID-19 crisis. (courtesy photo)

Fuel Cell specialist in the 403rd Maintenance Squadron, Staff Sgt. Timothy Dalton works in his civilian job as a nurse extern at Terrebonne General Medical Center, Louisiana during the COVID-19 crisis. (courtesy photo)

Natalie McKee, a Hinds Community College nursing instructor, stops during a break to talk to a group of students about one of the subjects from class. McKee, a lieutenant colonel, also serves as a clinical nurse in the 403rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron in the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. (courtesy photo)

Natalie McKee, a Hinds Community College nursing instructor, stops during a break to talk to a group of students about one of the subjects from class. McKee, a lieutenant colonel, also serves as a clinical nurse in the 403rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron in the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. (courtesy photo)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

Graduation is on the minds of many college seniors; however, this year many students worried that they wouldn’t get to finish the semester.

Reserve Citizen Airmen Lt. Col. Natalie McKee and Staff Sgt. Timothy Dalton had to adapt from a face-to-face education style and change to a home school style of learning after being informed that nursing school wasn’t going to reopen due to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Now using virtual training for his school work, Dalton, a fuel cell specialist in the 403rd Maintenance Squadron, said, “My biggest challenge is internet connectivity, but the actual work is not as bad as I thought it would be.”

Some of the new online training includes live action simulations and video conferencing for group projects and labs including completing clinicals, or supervised interactions with patients in local hospitals.

“We also do patient case studies, make assessments and are graded on the choices we make,” he said.

Dalton said his clinical rotation was cut so he now works with virtual patients for clinicals.  He said that he is pushing forward in order to get projects completed for graduation.

Dalton, who works as a nurse extern at Terrebonne General Medical Center, Louisiana, and has patient care experience, said, “I wear a surgical mask all day, but as a nurse extern I don’t have direct contact with COVID-19 patients.” 

Even though he doesn’t deal with the COVID-19 patients at work, he said it is a real worry for him when he goes home to his wife and two daughters, so he makes sure to take extra precautions.

Making sure that home is safe is also important to Lt. Col. Natalie McKee, a clinical nurse in the 403rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron, whose husband is also a nurse.

While her husband comes-and-goes to work, McKee, a Hinds Community College nursing instructor, now works from home and has had to go from a lecture style to an online style of teaching.

“Now I teach class online using voice-over presentations,” she said. “I also offer more opportunities for phone and email question and answer sessions.”

She said that the students in the clinical phase are using virtual simulations for patient care.

“I provide the simulated patient’s background and medical history to the students,” said McKee. “They are graded on how well they do with patient care based on the decisions they make.”

McKee’s specialty is public health nursing, with her last lecture being on immunizations, such as the flu.

“I also teach the difference between seasonal illnesses and pandemics,” she said. “I remind them to practice social distancing, keep themselves and their homes clean to help prevent the spread of viruses, and to keep an eye on those people who may need help.”

McKee said keeping morale up and staying active keeps people motivated, especially since working from home has been a learning curve for both her and her students

“I enjoy teaching,” she said. “But being a clinical nurse in the Reserve, I am prepared both mentally and with my job in case I get activated to assist with the COVID-19 crisis.”