Chattanooga State’s nursing students build skills during pandemic

Dr. Martina Harris, Chattanooga State Community College’s assistant dean of Nursing, and Allied Health and Registered Nursing program director.

Chattanooga State Community College’s Nursing Program has traditionally prepared students to be registered nurses in order to help meet current and emerging needs in the workplace.

However, the COVID pandemic has added an entirely new layer of urgency, helping to further prepare students for their future in healthcare.
“The Nursing program at Chattanooga State has been preparing area nurses for their work in healthcare for decades,” explained Dr. Rebecca Ashford, Chattanooga State president. 
“So, preparing future nurses to work in a pandemic situation is not something we expected to do, but we were prepared to do. These future nurses will have one more set of experiences and skills that will serve our community well as they transition to their careers.”
As the pandemic raged and agencies raced to provide testing availability, it wasn’t until the last half of 2020 that accurate tests were ready and Chattanooga State’s nursing department was asked to help with COVID testing at the former Alstom plant. 
Chattanooga State’s COVID testing and vaccination initiative has been a “team effort” between program director Dr. Martina Harris, faculty colleagues and the Hamilton County Health Department.
Along with Dr. Harris, Chattanooga State Associate Professor Marie Loisy and instructor Brittany Willams have been coordinating the school’s student rotations since fall 2020, where approximately 16-30 students from first- and second-year day and night nursing classes have participated. 
The project–which has now advanced to include administering COVID-19 vaccinations at River Park, CARTA bus barn and Enterprise South–began in early February 2021.

“I learned more about the process of public health and how that aspect of nursing functions while also learning skills and patient-centered care,” explained Michael Kaloi, while Taylor Gladson agreed and added, “I loved to see this aspect of community nursing.”

Understanding the difference between the anxiety of patients coming for testing who were worried about being positive and now seeing the hope that vaccinations bring, made this experience “an exceptional privilege,” noted Christine Doyle.

Dr. Harris, Chattanooga State’s assistant dean of Nursing and Allied Health and Registered Nursing program director, was recently appointed to the Tennessee Board of Nursing (TBON) by Governor Bill Lee. 

The first African American director for the Registered Nursing Program at Chattanooga State, Dr. Harris has more than 27 years of  nursing experience, with 16 of those serving in the field of higher education. 
She has been at Chattanooga State since 2013. 

As one of 11 TBON members, Dr. Harris will serve a four-year term and represent Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District.

Chattanooga State’s nursing program was recently ranked #1 by Nursing Schools Almanac for best associate degrees in nursing in Tennessee. 
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