Students gain experience and friendships as campus COVID-19 test swabbers

The 2020-2021 academic year has been unlike any other. But despite the unusual circumstances like mask wearing, social distancing and hybrid learning, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students’ experiences in ways they never anticipated. We will be sharing their personal stories over the next several weeks. 

  

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Senior nursing major Hannah Fleischer has one thing to say to Nebraska Wesleyan students, faculty and staff who have used the university’s COVID-19 test site. 

  

“Thank you.” 

  

Fleischer is among the 15 NWU students who have served as COVID-19 test swabbers during the 2020-2021 academic year. The decision to partner with TestNebraska and provide free COVID-19 testing on campus was critical in making in-person classes, athletics, theatre productions, music performances and other activities a possibility during a pandemic. 

  

“I knew that testing was going to be a vital part of keeping classes on campus, and I was more than willing to help in any way that I could,” said Michaela Mass, a junior biology major from Omaha. 

  

The team of student swabbers were required to have their Certified Nursing Assistant license. In August, they were trained through TestNebraska including the process of nasopharyngeal swabbing. The student team is supervised by Jennifer Agee, director of health and safety. 

  

On August 19 — the week that classes started for the fall semester — the student team of swabbers donned their personal protective equipment including gowns, double sets of gloves, N95 masks, goggles or face shields, and began their important work. 

  

Fleischer remembers the nervousness felt by many first-time testers. 

  

“I know that for me, when I have an explanation and a general idea of what is going to be done to me, I’m a lot calmer and more compliant,” she said, “and this is something that I tried to do with every person that I swabbed.” 

  

While the responsibility gives the student swabbers important experience, it has also resulted in some unexpected and pleasant surprises. Mass recalls meeting a student who came to the test site and introduced herself as an international student from France. 

  

“I have taken French since middle school and have continued to take courses at NWU,” said Mass. “I let her know about the French table (conversation group) at NWU, and we exchanged contact information. 

  

“I am happy that swabbing gave me the opportunity to make her feel more comfortable here in Nebraska plus I have another friend to speak French with now.” 

  

Both students say they try to show kindness, empathy and understanding to each tester. They both are grateful for the vigilance of the campus community and it’s commitment to protect the pack. In eight months, they have administered nearly 6,000 tests at the campus test site. 

  

“NWU gave us the chance to make a difference on campus, and we took it,” said Mass, who is planning a career as a physician assistant. “Because of swabbing, we were all able to be back on campus this fall and spring semester.” 

  

“If I could say one thing to everyone, I would say, thank you for allowing us to test and swab you,” added Fleischer who will work as a registered nurse after her graduation in May, “so that we could continue to have class, athletics and extracurricular activities.”