How One Nursing Student is Making a Difference and How You Can Too

Aaliyah Ismail was excited for her future as she began her last year of nursing school at the University of Washington, but as graduation grew closer something very unexpected happened—a pandemic.

As a student who was working as a nursing tech in trauma for the past year, infectious disease was not her field. But that all changed rapidly. When Seattle emerged as the first coronavirus hotspot in early March, it was clear the city would need additional support and medical expertise. Through CDC Foundation funding to the University of Washington School of Nursing, Aaliyah joined a school cohort supporting the COVID-19 response by answering calls coming into the Public Health Seattle-King County Department Call Center. Today she is learning so much more than she ever expected.

Aaliyah“The first couple of weeks of the pandemic, the lines rang all day long with questions from county residents who were scared and didn’t know where to find the correct information about COVID-19,” said Aaliyah. “The nursing students were able to come in and make sure all the questions at the health department call center were answered.”

Residents’ questions ranged from how to best social distance to testing-related information to where people can go for quarantining if they didn’t have a safe place. Since the information changes by the day—and sometimes the hour—many calls from people were fear based, with people fearing for their own health. Hearing the voice on the line and having someone to direct them to the correct information is proving to be a tremendous help in calming fears.

To give nursing students real-world experience, the University of Washington School of Nursing partnered with Public Health–Seattle & King County to give students opportunities to join frontline efforts in the fight against coronavirus. The partnership includes the call center, but also included opportunities for doctoral students to work in telemedicine call centers in local health care organizations with faculty advisors as well as the placement of licensed graduate nursing students at area care centers designated for assessment and recovery for vulnerable patients who tested positive for COVID-19.

With a special Giving Tuesday Now around the corner on May 5, this program represents just one example of how CDC Foundation, and other organizations, are helping around the country. There are so many needs to address during the coronavirus pandemic. Donating on Giving Tuesday is one way all of us can help make a difference—big or small. The CDC Foundation is providing some of the innovative solutions that public health departments, hospitals and healthcare facilities need right now.

“I feel grateful to be part of the healthcare force that is making a difference and helping people who truly are in need,” says Aaliyah. “Some days I feel I am helpful and making a difference, but sometimes I wish I could do even more.”

Giving Tuesday Now is Tuesday, May 5 and is a response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. Please join in today.

Amanda Dudley is a communications consultant for the CDC Foundation.