Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Nursing chair, students react to CVPH arrest

Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital is where most of SUNY Plattsburgh’s nursing students do their clinicals.



By Aleksandra Sidorova

Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, the site where many nursing students gain clinical experience, could have also become the site of a shooting. Plattsburgh City Police arrested an armed suspect said to have been a “disgruntled” former CVPH employee Tuesday, Feb. 13. 

Caitlin Nash, a junior nursing student, has done her clinical rotations at CVPH before. At this point in the semester, her rotation is a 12-hour day on CVPH’s medical surgical floor. When she heard about the arrest, she realized how little she actually knew about safety procedures.

“The best way I could explain it is I wasn’t expecting it to happen,” Nash said. “It definitely opened up my eyes and it made me realize how fortunate we are to have such a good response.”

Junior Olivia Doud, like Nash, is on rotation at CVPH this semester, but she said the arrest isn’t “in the forefront” of her mind. She said she did find herself thinking, “What would we have done if something actually did happen?”

Interim Chair of Nursing Maureen Squires said the incident reminded her of the false shooter threat reported to Plattsburgh High School in April 2023. Squires was in Sibley Hall, right across the street from the high school, when law enforcement responded to the threat.

“I feel very, in a way, not shocked that something like this happened, because I lived through what happened at PHS last year maybe,” Squires said. “I think that something is bound to happen, in a public sense.”

Squires said she was “really pleased” with the early alert sent by University Police Chief Patrick Rascoe and law enforcement’s quick action at CVPH. On the other hand, when police cars surrounded Plattsburgh High School last year, many in Sibley had assumed the worst because they received no notice of an emergency.

Safety in general and especially safety protocols at CVPH became a topic intensely discussed in class. 

“This is something that unfortunately is becoming such a normalcy in today’s world that we now have to be aware of,” Nash said.

The day after the arrest, Nash said the original lesson plan for her class was scrapped, and instead they went over situational awareness, general safety protocols and protocols specific to CVPH and Adirondack Medical Center.

Doud said safety in active shooter scenarios had not been discussed in depth until the arrest.

Instead, class conversations focused on patient safety. The arrest near CVPH showed the Nursing Department that the themes discussed as part of the current curriculum may need to change.

“Right now is the prime time for us to look at our own curriculum in nursing, because we’re revising our curriculum,” Squires said. “It’s good for us to look at where we’re addressing all these safety concerns.”

Squires and Dean of the School of Education, Health and Human Services Denise Simard responded to news of the arrest with an email statement to students and faculty detailing resources to support them. For students, resources included the Health and Counseling Center and the Student Assistance Program and a resource for faculty was the Employee Assistance Program.

Squires continued to provide daily updates.

“We can take student concerns, but if they don’t know we’re acting on them, they still might feel like, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’” Squires said.

Nash noted the support that she gets from her cohort as a driving force behind her continued passion for nursing.

“I know in the past I’ve questioned, is this what I want to do?” Nash said. “But getting to see people and getting to help people every day — that is something that keeps me going. It’s also knowing that everyone else is going through the same thing, so we’re all going through this together.”

Aside from the support of her cohort and friends, Nash finds sport a way to stop thinking about nursing for a few hours. She is on Plattsburgh State’s women’s lacrosse team.

“I’m very lucky I have an outlet that I get to go to every day. I get to play lacrosse — it’s one of the things I love to do,” Nash said. “Finding that balance is also really important, especially in nursing school because nursing school is very difficult. It’s a lot of work. You’re always studying, you’re always putting in the hours, and having something you can do where you can just turn your mind off … is a really good way to decompress.”

The FBI’s 20-year review of active shooter incidents from 2000 to 2019 show that 15 out of 333 incidents took place in healthcare facilities, making up 4.5% of incidents.

“This hits close to home, even though that’s such a trite phrase — literally, when we look at where this person was stopped and how close this was to actually being a catastrophe,” Squires said. “It’s scary to think about how real this is.”

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