With the ongoing pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus shutting down colleges and universities across the country, many institutions have taken it upon themselves to provide much-needed resources to local hospitals hit hard by an influx of patients.
The unprecedented times led Southeast Technical Institute (STI) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to donate nearly $7,500 worth of gloves, face masks, caps, gowns, and other personal protection equipment (PPE) to two nearby hospitals and the local children’s hospital.
Micah Hansen, director of STI’s financial aid office, said the school realized it could donate the equipment since no students were going to be using it for the foreseeable future.
“They decided since we weren't going to have students on campus for the rest of the semester, rather than let all of that equipment sit on the shelf and not be used, to donate it to the hospital where it could make a difference,” Hansen said.
Deborrah Cummings, the director of STI’s Pharmacy Technology program, said coordinating with the two hospitals was easy because they have established relationships with them, as the nursing students do their clinical work there and some even get hired after graduation.
She said she was lying awake watching the news last week and saw other schools donating supplies and immediately texted a colleague to see if STI could follow suit.
“I thought, ‘You know, we have all this stuff in our lab, and we can't be in class right now and you can always replace it, why don’t we donate it,’” Cummings said.
Hansen noted that the impact of the coronavirus hit home after seeing his sister, who is a nurse at one of the local hospitals, work long hours and notify him that they were already running low on necessary supplies.
Some of STI’s donations went directly to Hansen’s sister and her colleagues, who work at Avera Health, and expressed their appreciation to Hansen and the school.
“Avera wants to thank Southeast Tech for their generous contribution during this pandemic,” Sara Henderson, vice president of supply chain at Avera Health, said in a statement. “We have received such a wave of community support — it is truly heartwarming. These donations of personal protective equipment will be necessary when we get a surge of patients.”
While South Dakota has not been hit as hard as some other states, officials are expecting cases to skyrocket in the coming weeks, leading to a higher demand for medical supplies. Hansen said he and other staff wanted to see what the school could do to help in any way as the state braces for the pandemic.
“I just think it's important for everybody to kind of take a second and look, ‘Is there something? Is there a way that we can help contribute?’” Hansen said. “Whether it's the medical field where they really need a lot of support right now, or anywhere else.”
Technical colleges particularly are likely to have medical equipment not being used, as they have limitations in performing clinicals or lab work virtually with campuses closed off to students, Cummings added. After finding out the school would be closed for the semester, the nursing program at STI loaded their stock of unused medical supplies in the back of an SUV and delivered them to the local children’s hospital.
“Southeast Tech often works hand-in-hand with the healthcare industry. We have great relationships with area hospitals and clinics, and we also have a number of Southeast Tech graduates employed as healthcare workers,” said Southeast Tech President Bob Griggs, in a statement. “That’s why we felt that giving back was more important now than ever before.”
Bluegrass Community Technical College in Lexington, Kentucky, is not only donating masks, gloves and other equipment, but also has professors making face shields for health care workers by using the school’s 3D printers, which they took to their homes after campus was closed, according to Lex 18.
Beyond donating unused medical supplies, schools are also seeing if they can contribute any space to house patients as hospitals are quickly becoming overflowed.
The University of Michigan announced Tuesday that it was looking into converting its indoor track facility into hospital space to handle an influx of coronavirus patients, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Keith Dickey, Michigan Medicine's chief strategy officer, told the news outlet that the plan was to have the indoor track converted and ready to accept patients by mid-April, adding that it could likely hold up to 500 patients.
"We are in extreme and rapid planning mode," he said. "But we have not made the final decision to execute on this plan at this moment."
In addition, state government leaders are urging businesses and institutions to help in any way possible, whether it be donating unused supplies from science labs and trade programs to hospitals in need or simply raising awareness that medical supplies will run low and be in critical need.
For more information and resources on how the spread of the novel coronavirus is impacting student financial aid, please refer to NASFAA's COVID-19 Web Center.
Our members are constantly going above and beyond to help their students succeed in higher education. NASFAA's Member Spotlight stories feature initiatives that our members have pursued that exceed the traditional scope of responsibilities of a financial aid office. If your university or financial aid office has taken on a project or unique efforts to help students, please reach out to us at [email protected].
Publication Date: 4/1/2020