Transit Costs Hassle Nursing Students

Students in Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and Health Studies hoping to complete the nursing major are forced to pay out-of-pocket transportation costs to get to hospitals in order to complete the mandatory clinical component of the major, forcing some students to switch to less beneficial, but cheaper, sites.

In order to ensure that nursing students are exposed to a multitude of clinical experiences, clinical sites span the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia areas.

For some students, however, getting to and from their clinical experiences poses a significant financial burden.

Lauren Gilmore (NHS ’17) said the hours of some clinical experiences require students to spend their own money to take taxis to their sites because public transportation is unavailable.

“It’s not always an option when we have to be there so early to take public transportation so a lot of the nursing students will share cabs, but we’re not able to get any sort of reimbursement,” Gilmore said. “We have to pay all of those transportation costs out of pocket.”

Gilmore said she has friends who are forced to spend over 10 dollars on each cab ride to and from sites in the fall, totaling hundreds of dollars a month in transportation costs.The Office of Student Financial Services’ website estimates average travel that students may incur to get to clinical sites and internships at around 650 dollars a year. According to the 2015-2016 Bachelor of Science in Nursing student handbook, students may have to travel up to 35 miles from Georgetown to reach a clinical site.

Elena Snow (NHS ’17) said transportation costs forced her to switch to a less beneficial site.

“I ended up having to switch my clinical because I was going to be at a [Northern Virginia hospital] on an oncology floor, which would have been an incredible opportunity for me, but I couldn’t afford to go there and back because I’d have to Uber back to make it to [class],” Snow said. “I missed a really cool opportunity because of my personal finances and that was a little disheartening.”

According to Carolyn Landry (NHS ’18), nursing students incur additional costs beyond transportation. Students have to purchase uniforms and undergo background and health checks — costs that can often add up to hundreds of dollars.

Patricia Cloonan, interim dean and associate professor in the NHS, wrote in an email to The Hoya that the NHS tries to be mindful of student’s clinical locations.

“For example, we make our best effort to place first and second year students at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, which is located very close to St. Mary’s Hall. We hope that this helps with the transition to living in Washington, D.C.,” Cloonan wrote. According to Cloonan, the NHS tries to accommodate the financial challenges for upperclassman students getting to their sites.

“If transportation is a noted issue and the primary site is not available, we work to place students in a similar area to where their top choices are located. In addition, if transportation proves to be a fundamental hardship, we work to place students at alternate locations closer Georgetown’s campus,” Cloonan wrote. “Our goal is to work closely with students to ensure the best possible educational experience and give them options that reflect their individual situations.”

Cloonan wrote the administration has attempted to reduce the costs of transportation for students in the past, including using vans and taxi coupons, but the efforts were unsuccessful.

“Vans did not prove feasible for a variety of reasons, including too few students going to the same clinical site each morning, parking fees, and the need to have two certified student drivers on board for each trip. Additionally, we tried to implement a half-price coupon system for taxi service (with 2-3 students in each car) to make the cost of commute less burdensome, but we did not have one student take advantage of that option,” Cloonan wrote. “Certainly, we are happy to revisit these ideas if a need is expressed.”

Cloonan did not respond to requests for an in-person interview with The Hoya.

Associate professor Colleen Norton, director of the school’s BSN program, wrote in an email to The Hoya that it is essential for students to have varied clinical experiences, which can only be achieved through sending nursing students to off-campus hospitals.

“As educators, we must ensure that our students, in the course of their formation as professional nurses, receive high quality and diverse clinical experiences that will prepare them for a range of career placements as nurses,” Norton wrote.

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