EDITOR’S NOTE: Following is the first in a series of stories on nursing students who are graduating and entering the health care field during a time when the spread of COVID-19 has multiplied in a matter of a couple months, both locally and beyond.

WINGATE UNIVERSITY — College graduation is an exciting time for all students, with one chapter closing and another opening. Graduates are brimming with hope for successful careers, anxious to use the degrees they worked hard for and earned.

Do students who are graduating with degrees in health care share that same enthusiasm? Are they excited and hopeful to be entering the medical field while COVID-19 remains rampant throughout the country? Are they concerned about starting a career during a pandemic?

Jerome Overton is a senior nursing student at Wingate University. Overton is working with Carolina Pharmacy, doing COVID swabbing and contacting patients telling them they either have or do not have the virus.

Question: What drew you into the health care field?

Overton: “Really, it’s just the aspect of being able to take care of another person. I’ve always been a person who likes to reach out and help people especially with COVID going on. It really solidifies that idea for me.”

Question: What do you want to do with your degree?

Overton: “...Emergency. I am venturing out into ICU practice trying to see what I like from there and I’m picking from ICU and emergency for my final decision.”

Question: How does it make you feel when thinking about working in the ICU or emergency and possibly taking care of COVID patients?

Overton: “Since COVID began, it has done nothing but harden my desire to work in the medical field. It really shows you how holistic care is always what we need to use with patients — COVID especially because it can affect the family in such diverse ways.”

Question: How are you planning to handle the mental and emotional toll of the ICU and emergency department — especially now with COVID patients and having to talk to families about end of life situations?

Overton: “Before COVID, we were taught that some things, situations where you have nothing you can do and you’re just in your position understanding that ... remaining on that thought knowing that we are doing everything we can for the patient some things are out of our hands.”

Question: Have you worked with COVID patients at your clinicals?

Overton: “Yes, we had one patient. This was last semester ... on the oncology floor we had one patient that had COVID.”

Question: Do you have any hesitations about either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, considering how quickly they were pushed out?

Overton: “I do … but if everyone was hesitant to get it, nobody would have results on how effective it would be.”

Question: What’s one thing you want readers to know?

Overton: “Stressing the importance of holistic care — seeing the patient as a whole person ... You may tell a patient they have COVID but understanding they have a grandmother they have to take care of at home that is very susceptible to having a deadly time with the illness. It’s really understanding how much it affects the patient and their family and their friends and how you can be taking care of them the next day.”