See You In Two Weeks: One Year After Our Underestimation of COVID-19
March 22, 2021
Ignorance Was Bliss
Remember when we were young and blissfully unaware of the coming shutdown of society? In mid-March 2020, I walked out the front door of the A.M. Burton Health Sciences building expecting, at most, a two-week period of working from home. My husband worked at the kitchen table and I set up shop on our couch. During this time, we watched the news more than usual, experienced the madness of Tiger King, and waited to hear something, anything, about when things would go back to normal. One (crazy) year later, normal life is still on some distant horizon.
Last March, Lipscomb University College of Pharmacy’s students, faculty, and staff went fully remote. In the admissions office, it was business as usual with the added bonus of being able to wear sweatpants to work every day. Applications were still coming in, students were confirming their seat in the upcoming class, and graduation plans were still underway. We began scheduling interview days every week instead of every two weeks and Zoom became my sole means of communication with the outside world.
How the Students Are Doing
Everyone in the college was affected by the sudden and difficult transition to virtual formatting, but overcame every challenge. Our college’s dean, Tom Campbell, remarked that he was unsurprised when he learned that the student body’s overall performance stayed consistent during the shutdown.
"I am so proud of how our students showed flexibility and resilience during the times of turmoil that the College (and the entire world) had to work through. Instead of complaining about things out of our control, the members of the College rolled up their sleeves and just worked harder." — Dean Tom Campbell, College of Pharmacy
When Will Things Go Back to Normal?
Hearing that post-pandemic life is “our new normal” is rapidly becoming cliché. Will we always have to wear masks? Is there going to be an eternal shortage of toilet paper? Can I ever go to a concert again? While many aspects of our lives now aren’t what we would prefer, some parts are a little better, at least in my experience. Making breakfast in the morning without feeling rushed, being able to do some chores when there’s downtime, and spending more time with my husband are a few things I can cherish from this otherwise insane year.
Our student pharmacists have also been able to very effectively manage their time, as is evidenced by their consistency in academic performance. While the college is less lively than before, students are still finding ways to maximize their experience in the program. For a large part of the pandemic, many haven’t had to worry about commuting to campus. Given the state of Nashville traffic, that can save a significant amount of time that could be used for extra studying or catching up on sleep from a late night (of studying).
The building here is well-equipped with technology that made the transition to online learning a breeze. Professors already recorded all of their lectures for students who couldn’t make it to class or for those who wanted to review before an exam. Student organizations still hold regular meetings and planned activities and study nights via Zoom and Kahoot. Overall, the transition to the virtual format has been largely seamless.
Current Learning Conditions
In the last few months, the college has been gradually returning to in-person learning. The students are currently on a Lipscomb Flex schedule, meaning that live lectures and labs are held on campus daily and remote classes are offered periodically for all students and for those students who have specifically requested to study remotely. I spoke to Dean Campbell regarding what next semester will look like for students. He suspects the Fall of 2021 could likely return to an entirely in-person schedule. “However, with the success we have had with online learning, will we maintain some activities via synchronous or asynchronous online instruction? Quite possibly, if the online learning is something we feel helps the student pharmacists learn and use their time more efficiently.”
Life here will move forward. In May, we’ll have a slightly altered graduation ceremony and send a newly-minted class of pharmacists out into the world, the first graduates to complete their entire P4 year during a pandemic.
The End In Sight (or The Beginning?)
The global shutdown affected everyone in different ways. Some were stuck at home for months while others’ schedules continued status quo, with the addition of wearing a mask in public. Here at Lipscomb University College of Pharmacy, our classes, interview days, meetings, and devotionals may be delivered in a slightly different way, but the content is the same. Our goal is to provide a rich learning atmosphere for our students, no matter if it’s live or online.
With the vaccine rollout under way, our lives may soon go back to a version of whatever they were before, but I have a feeling that some things will be different, and maybe for the better. We have seen firsthand that mask-wearing, hand-washing, and socially distancing reduces the spread of several diseases, not just COVID-19. Lipscomb’s young healthcare professionals are venturing into a strange new world, and we have faith that they are equipped to handle anything, even a worldwide pandemic.
Off-Script: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Lipscomb University College of Pharmacy