It’s 4:45 a.m. when my alarm goes off. I groggily open my eyes and groan at the weekly realization that I am awake before the sun is. I climb out of bed, splash some water on my face, put on my white scrubs that loudly attest to my status as a neophyte nurse and rush out the door to meet my fellow nursing students in the Phelan lobby. We are going to our weekly nursing clinicals, where we gain our real-world work experience through taking care of patients and shadowing licensed nurses.
Every week, we go through the motions of asking the question “Who’s calling the Uber this time?” Without fail, our UberXL from War Memorial Gym to Highland Hospital in Oakland comes at the low price of at least $50. This isn’t a round-trip either—the way back often costs more during rush hour, costing us a grand total of at least $100 every Monday. The cost of using BART was comparable, but would also cost us more time.
The six of us are fortunate to have each other to split the bill. With ten scheduled trips to Highland, our projected total expenditure as a group hovers around $1000, give or take with some fare variability. I feel that I can’t complain—after all, I am gaining invaluable experience by leaving the city for my clinicals. Clinicals are essential to the nursing program, as nursing students are required to complete a certain number of clinical hours in order to earn their registered nursing licenses. Oakland’s Highland Hospital has given me the opportunity to work with a unique patient demographic that presents a large variety of clinical concerns. However, the cost of transportation can be an unanticipated financial burden, especially since we are oftentimes unaware of our clinical location until a week or two before we are assigned our location for the semester. Most of the time that nursing students are choosing their class schedules during registration, the clinical site location is listed as “TBA,” and so they are unable to factor location into their registration decisions.
The Bachelor of Science in Nursing Student Handbook for 2016-2017, which details all School of Nursing and Health Professions (SONHP) policies and standards, maintains a section in regards to transportation to clinical settings, stating “The SONHP reserves the right to place students in clinical practicum sites up to sixty miles away from the USF Main Campus. Students are responsible for their own transportation to clinical practicum agencies…USF does not provide insurance coverage for travel to and from clinical practicum placements.”
Finding an adequate number of clinical placements is understandably difficult. Clinical sites are becoming less receptive to hosting students in the interest of patient safety when incidents occur. Placements can be quite limited in the city and in the greater Bay Area, considering competition and the amount of nursing students from other nursing schools that need placement. Sending students to far-flung locations is unavoidable when trying to give nursing students the clinical experiences they need to graduate in the promised four years. Nonetheless, it’s distressing every semester to worry about the possibility of being given a clinical placement in an unfamiliar city, without a concrete plan on how to get there, nor the convenience of a car.
This ASUSF election ballot contained a proposition that would grant students a 25 percent discount on BART, with the semesterly transportation fee increasing to $30 per semester. However, discounted BART would not be enough to solve the financial burden of transportation to clinical placements for nursing students. The cost of transportation would still add up with the discounted rate.
One solution to support nursing students is to request the University to provide the transportation themselves. Students could meet on campus in the mornings to take the shuttle together, and then be taken back to campus at the end of their shift. Such a shuttle would be provided only in the event that a clinical site is outside the city or a certain radius. This would remove the concern for insurance in the event that something occurs with any student carpools, and it would eliminate the challenge of finding transportation to clinical sites.
I hope USF considers more solutions like this in the future, solutions beyond leaving hard working nursing students to figure out transportation entirely on their own.