Novel Coronavirus

SMU is closely monitoring updates from health care experts about the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). We will post updates here and communicate via email if there are major developments. Students, faculty, and staff who visit the campus for essential business, including to visit the food pantry, must wear a cloth mask per CDC recommendations. Updated November 18, 2020.

COVID-19 Student Compendium    COVID-19 Faculty & Staff Compendium
COVID-19 Faculty Compendium      PPE Protocol Campus and Clinicals
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Dear students, faculty, and staff,

During his Monday news conference, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California is “pulling an emergency brake” in response to the “fastest increase California has seen since the start of this pandemic.” Forty-one of California’s counties are now in the purple tier (highest risk), including all of the counties in which we have SMU campuses.

The Thanksgiving holiday is scheduled for Thursday 11/26 and Friday 11/27 and for some programs Wednesday, 11/25. Online courses, as well as on-campus sessions for labs, skills labs, simulations, and other pre-approved activities, will resume after the holiday, as currently scheduled. As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday and the end of the fall semester, it is imperative that we do not become complacent about taking preventive actions and, in fact, redouble our efforts to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. 

The health and safety protocols for on-campus presence that were instituted in June have served our community well in terms of maintaining a safe environment to carry on essential learning and work activities. To everyone who helped create and who continues to ensure that we maintain safe campus environments, and to all those who have come to campus and adhered to SMU’s COVID-19 guidelines and protocols, I offer my sincerest thanks for your commitment to the health of our community!

The following recommendations are focused on keeping our community as safe as possible, and we urge you to take them seriously and help us spread the message.

Travel and Holiday Celebrations Advisory 

1.     As you finalize your holiday plans, please discuss your travel options with your family, friends, and social network beforehand. Consider that the deadly surges we are seeing in critical COVID statistics are widespread throughout the U.S.

2.     On 11/13, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) sent out this travel advisoryWe strongly recommend that you heed the CDPH advisory and stay home or within your local region and avoid non-essential travel to other states or countries. Any travel, especially that involving mass transit modes, is likely to expose you to more risk than you experience by staying local. Furthermore, you will increase the risk of bringing the virus back to your local region.

3.     If you choose to travel outside your local region or if someone outside your daily social bubble stays at your home or plans to visit:

a.     Establish a clear plan ahead of time for mitigating everyone’s risk for COVID-19 exposure, especially those who are at high risk for experiencing serious illness when infected with the virus. This includes, but is not limited to, minimizing interactions outside your social bubble as much as possible for at least two weeks before traveling,  and strictly adhering to preventive measures at all times (mask-wearing, hand washing, avoiding close contact).

b.     Establish a plan for traveler(s) to get tested for the virus before traveling and upon returning home. Consider that a negative test result may not be a reliable indicator of the absence of coronavirus. Also, bear in mind that if you have an in-person class, a clinical assignment, or an on-site work obligation during the week of 11/30, the turnaround time for receiving test results may impact knowing your COVID status prior to interacting with your student/faculty/staff peers, and your patients/clients.

c.      Upon returning home, traveler(s) should—at the very least—plan to self-monitor and consider completing a thorough daily self-check (use the CDC Coronavirus Self-Checker), being sure to keep informed about the health of those they socialized with over the holiday.

d.     Upon returning home, traveler(s) should self-quarantine for 14-days or until they test negative for the virus (if they choose to be tested).

e.     Consider the suggestions offered for enhancing the safety of holiday travel and celebrations in the following resources:

4.     SMU does not require testing of students or employees before returning to campus after traveling outside their local region, but it is highly recommended that you do so. We provide support to access testing resources if this is a challenge to accomplish. What we do require of everyone is to follow all the guidelines and protocols established in the SMU COVID-19 compendium.

Keeping each other safe through the end of 2020 and into 2021

During this pre-holiday week, and the weeks following Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Years, and other holiday celebrations, please remember to take the following steps to protect your health and the well-being of our community:

  • Public health officials have been warning for months about the potential for a twindemic, defined as a surge in the coronavirus pandemic plus a severe flu season. While the severity of this season’s flu has not yet been determined by epidemiologists, we now know the predicted winter surge of the coronavirus is a reality. Please get a flu shot to reduce your risk of getting seriously ill with the flu—or the serious combination of flu and COVID-19—during the challenging months ahead.
  • Keep a physical distance of at least six feet between you and others whenever possible. This is a proven strategy to help minimize the risk of spreading illness. Please don’t gather in the campus hallways, breakrooms, or even outside around picnic tables or benches. Only remove your mask briefly to eat or drink. Maintain these practices while off campus, as well, especially as we enter colder temperatures and the rest of the winter holiday season.
  • While on campus, use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times. Remember: universal masking remains in effect at our campuses. Please review the SMU COVID-19 PPE Protocol.All individuals engaged in on-campus, in-person learning activities (lab/skills, lab/simulation) must adhere to this protocol or will otherwise not be allowed to participate in these activities.
  • Be diligent about preventative measures. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Sneeze or cough into a tissue or your elbow. If you develop any COVID-type symptoms—such as fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches, or loss of taste or smell—do not come to work or school. Please inform your faculty or supervisor/manager, and follow up as directed in the guidelines provided in the appropriate COVID-19 Compendium located here.

There is good news on the horizon. It’s encouraging to hear the great strides being made with COVID-19 vaccines—but they are not available yet. The best way to prevent infection is to diligently follow the proven strategies outlined above. Please help protect yourself, your family members, your fellow SMU students, faculty, and staff as well as the patients and clients in the communities we serve.

Thank you for doing your part. Please stay safe and well.

Sincerely,
Ching-Hua Wang,
President


Questions?

Students with questions about these policies should contact their department or program chairs or directors.

Faculty and staff with questions about these policies should contact Interim Director for the Office of People and Culture Maria Salas

If you have an underlying health condition that may place you at higher risk and you want to discuss accommodations, please contact the Disability Resource Center if you are a student or the Office of People and Culture for staff and faculty.

COVID-19 Symptoms and Care
  • The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, and shortness of breath. See the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website for more. If you experience symptoms:
  • First, call your primary care provider.
  • Second, students, faculty, and staff should report all moderate and severe COVID-19 symptoms (suspected COVID-19) and all positive test results for COVID-19 (confirmed COVID-19).

Adhere to good hygiene practice.

  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Do not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing, and immediately dispose of the tissue. Or, cough and sneeze into your sleeve-covered elbow or shoulder.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean your hands frequently, especially immediately after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose, by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Should I wear a face mask to campus or will a mask be provided by the University? 

The CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public places. It does not recommend using N-95 masks or surgical masks due to concerns over having adequate supply levels for people in the health care system. 

Should I go to school, clinicals, or work if I'm feeling sick?

No. Faculty and staff should not report to or remain at work when sick. The University will require you to leave the campus buildings. You will not be permitted to return until you are symptom-free, especially if you are displaying flu or cold-like respiratory symptoms (sneezing, coughing, fever, etc.) which are common symptoms of COVID-19. You should call your health care provider to obtain further instructions before visiting their office.

Students should communicate with faculty, according to your program’s guidelines, if you are staying home due to illness. During the COVID-19 crisis, the University has advised academic program administrators to relax absenteeism policies with the intention to support adherence to this simple, but effective method to minimize the spread of infection.

Faculty and staff should report sick leave during periods of absence due to illness. Please contact Sutter Shared Services—Integrated Disability and Management 855.781.0855 if on sick leave more than five business days. 

What if I have been exposed to someone or a family member who has tested positive for COVID-19?    

All students, faculty, and staff who have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 are not permitted to return to campus and must self-isolate for 14 days. We recommend checking the CDC website for updated guidelines for caring for those sick with the virus.

In this case, the University must monitor and approve your return to campus to ensure the safety of the campus community. Therefore, please contact the Office of People and Culture (formerly Human Resources) to obtain the guidelines for return to work or campus.

Students should communicate with faculty, according to your program’s guidelines, if you are staying home because you are, or have been, in close contact with someone who is sick or is caring for someone who is sick. During the COVID-19 crisis, the University has advised academic program administrators to relax absenteeism policies to accommodate those students who have primary caregiving responsibilities.

Faculty and staff may use family care leave policies such as Kincare to care for immediate family and household members who may be ill or who may not be ill but need care due to any COVID-19-related care arrangements. Please contact Sutter Health Integrated Disability and Management 855.781.0855. If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, staff may work remotely if appropriate or choose to use vacation or take an unpaid administrative furlough.

Please work with your manager or supervisor to assess work-from-home options.

Will I be notified if a student, faculty, or staff member tests positive for COVID-19?

SMU has a set of health and safety guidelines for students and faculty that address COVID-19 scenarios our community is likely to encounter, including if someone has tested positive for COVID-19. These guidelines can be found in the COVID-19 Student Compendium, the COVID-19 Faculty Compendium, and the COVID-19 Faculty/Staff Compendium (coming soon).  

Federal, state, and local COVID-19 guidelines, specifically for institutions of higher education, indicate that alerting appropriate University officials if you test positive for COVID-19 is essential to minimize our community’s incidence of the virus. For each potential COVID scenario, SMU’s specific reporting processes identify the appropriate people to be notified (e.g., the director of Student Health and Counseling (SHAC), the director of Office of People and Culture, the SMU Safety Specialist). Maintaining the privacy of individuals who test positive is a priority. These guidelines are designed for your safety while ensuring confidentiality of any member of the SMU community who tests positive. You will be notified if, according to the guidelines of the CDC and local departments of public health (DPH), you meet the criteria for notification. Also, if a member of the SMU community has tested positive for COVID-19, a contact tracer from the DPH will be assigned to that individual to complete the notification actions required for each situation. In all situations, there are multiple resources identified in the aforementioned compendia to provide guidance to the individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Will a student, faculty, or staff member be allowed to return to the University once they have tested positive for COVID-19?

Before returning to campus or a clinical setting, students must be cleared according to the process delineated in the COVID-19 Student Compendium. Faculty and staff, or any other employee, must be cleared through the Department of Public Health or your physician’s office and the Office of People and Culture (formerly Human Resources) to ensure that appropriate return to work criteria have been met.

    What should I do if I have an underlying health condition?

    If you have an underlying health condition that may place you at higher risk for COVID-19 and you want to discuss accommodations, please contact the Disability Resource Center

    What if I’m returning to the U.S from a country with a Level 3 or Level 2 Travel Health Notice from the CDC?

    All students, faculty, and staff whose flights have returned or will return to the U.S. from countries with a Level 3 or Level 2 Travel Health Notices from the CDC, are not permitted to return to campus and are required to self-isolate for 14 days. You should call your health care provider to obtain further instructions before visiting their office.

    In addition, employees returning from international travel, whether University business or personal, are required to complete an online international travel registration form and it must be submitted at least 48 hours (two business days) before your planned return to campus after self-isolation or quarantine by public health officials. The University must monitor and approve your return to campus to assure the safety of the campus community.

    Employees may work remotely if appropriate or choose to use vacation or take an unpaid administrative furlough. Please work with your manager or supervisor to assess work-from-home options.

    What are my resources for counseling during this time of stress? 

    This unpredictable time of dealing with COVID-19 can trigger increased stress and other mental health concerns.  Students may contact the Student Health and Counseling Center at 510.879.9288 to schedule a telemental health session.  On-line students, SFP, Sacramento, and Fresno campus students are able to be seen through the Student Health and Counseling Center or the Sutter Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for telemental health services.  If you contact Sutter EAP, please identify yourself as a Samuel Merritt University student.  

    Staff and Faculty are able to utilize the Sutter Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for counseling and other forms of support during this stressful time. 

    University leaders recorded a student town hall hosted on WebEx April 2. Topics included tuition and fees, reopening campus, commencement, COVID-19 testing, work-study, academic support and success, California Health Corps, clinical experiences, and incoming summer cohorts. 

     Watch Town Hall

    Classes and Clinicals

    Are faculty still holding office hours?

    Yes. Faculty are reaching out with a plan to conduct virtual office hours. If that has not happened by March 23, 2020, please ask your class representative to reach out to them directly.

    Is the SMU bookstore open?

    For the time being, the bookstore is open and operating on its regular schedule. To reduce the potential for exposure to coronavirus, we encourage students to contact the bookstore by phone and email before visiting, 510.879.9200 Ext.9287.

    If I am on self-quarantine, how will I continue with my academic classes and clinical requirements?

    If you are on self-quarantine, faculty for your various courses will provide you with guidance regarding the completion of academic work: course assignments, class participation, and meeting course learning objectives via online methods.

    Each academic program has contingency plans for situations in which students cannot participate in established learning experiences in the laboratory, simulation setting, or at clinical sites. Consult with the course faculty or designated person in your program on how you can continue to meet laboratory, simulation, and clinical requirements if you are healthy enough to do so.

    What measures is SMU taking to ensure online exams are fair and comparable to regular exams? How will cheating be prevented?

    Faculty are being given an abundance of resources (including ongoing webinars) to facilitate the transition to online testing. Online exams should closely reflect in-class exams. All academic programs are working with the department of Academic and Instructional Innovation to implement tools that prevent cheating, including lockdown browsers and AI proctoring via webcam.

    Should students attend their current assignments at clinical agencies?

    Your program chair or director or dean is the best person to look to for answers specific to your program. It is the University’s intention, as educators, to find the balance between providing students the best possible learning opportunities while at the same time, minimizing the risk of exposure to any student.  

    If you are well and not restricted from a clinical agency as a student, you are expected to engage in clinical work.  Remember to strictly adhere to standard precautions for all patient care.  Most clinical agencies have established guidelines around student assignments to patients/clients (primarily related to isolation precautions), so please adhere to the processes currently followed.  If you have questions about your patient/client assignment, consult your clinical faculty.

    What should I do if I am at a clinical setting (either for work or as part of my coursework) and I am told to go home as a precautionary measure, due to potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus?
    • Contact the SMU course faculty responsible for overseeing your work in the clinical setting. They will want to gather as much information from you as possible regarding the circumstances around the decision to send you home. They (or another program administrator) will also be contacting the appropriate person at the clinical facility to gather accurate information about why you were advised to leave the clinical setting.
       
    • Follow any instructions  provided to you by a person of authority regarding self-quarantine or self-isolation(e.g., anticipated duration, who will contact you for follow up). This could be a public health official, a hospital administrator, or an SMU faculty/administrator.  SMU faculty have guidelines regarding information to glean from the clinical site in order to make decisions regarding a student’s presence at a clinical site or on campus.
    If I can’t go to clinical because the clinical site has temporarily suspended student access, how will I meet the requirements to complete my course?

    Academic programs are working with clinical agencies to reassign students to other clinical agencies when those possibilities exist and are exploring alternative methods for meeting course requirements. Program administrators are monitoring COVID-19 related updates from the licensing boards and specialized accrediting agencies that govern the requirements students need to meet for graduation and licensure/certification. Some of these agencies allow substitution of simulation experiences for clinical experiences and others do not. The most accurate source of information to answer this question is a faculty or administrator in your specific program.

    Is the University prepared to deal with educational experiences that cannot be delivered virtually?

    The faculty and administration of each academic program is developing a “curricular continuity plan,” including plans for delivering any experiences that cannot be modified or waived. 

    Academic Affairs is working closely with all programs and the Registrar’s Office to facilitate changes to curricular scheduling in a manner that is least disruptive to students. We are not yet able to provide insight on whether these changes may require instruction beyond the end of the spring semester. Students will NOT be asked to pay additional tuition or fees for any “make up” experiences that occur after the conclusion of the spring semester.

    What contingency plans are being made for students’ inability to meet the required clinical hours with patients and clients?

    Each SMU academic program is in touch with its respective accreditation organization regarding accreditation guidances that are in place or are being developed for the COVID-19 pandemic. Each of these guidances should be addressing adjustments that program administrators can make relative to their specific curriculum. Your program chair or director or dean is the best person to look to for answers specific to your program. 

    Will there be enough clinical sites available for students once rotations start again?

    In the current fluid environment, what we can say definitely is that whenever SMU has received notices of temporary cessation of student access to clinicals, the agencies have acknowledged the impact on students, faculty, programs, and institutions, and expressed a commitment to work with us to get students back on track as soon as possible.

    Will faculty make adjustments in course demands once back in clinical settings?

    Faculty are keenly aware of the impact these unanticipated interruptions will have on the established course plans. Faculty are being strongly encouraged to adapt their courses to ensure reasonable workloads and are receiving guidance and training related to how these adaptations to their course design and instructional material can be made.

    What is SMU doing to ensure that students who are close to graduation remain on track to graduate on time?

    The faculty, staff, and administration are doing everything possible to ensure that students can graduate on time. These efforts include: moving as much of the curriculum to an online format as possible, working to quickly revise the required curriculum to reduce/modify requirements where possible, and developing plans to deliver any experiences that cannot be modified once campuses are reopened. In addition, each degree program is in constant contact with their respective accrediting bodies to request changes/modifications in requirements where possible. While we cannot guarantee that students will graduate on time, every effort is being made to prevent any delays.

    Campus Visits for Testing

    Can I come to campus if my home situation makes it difficult to test?

    We know that working and learning at home is difficult. Coming to campus for testing is a last resort and tightly controlled because of the risk of exposure to students as well as the faculty or staff members who need to proctor. Our goal is to provide support to allow students to test at home. Please discuss what alternatives may be available with your faculty. You may also reach out to Elisa Laird for assistance.

    Who do I contact if I need to come to campus for testing?

    All requests to come to campus for testing must be directed to Elisa Laird. She will investigate the need and work with students and faculty. Only when we cannot provide an alternative solution will we allow a student to test on campus because of the risk to students and employees.

    What are some ways I can minimize distractions in my home for testing and studying?

    There are a lot of options to minimize distractions, including earplugs, noise-canceling headphones, scheduling exams for alternative times when the distractions are the fewest, and moving to different areas of your home or apartment.

    What is the protocol for coming to campus for testing?

    You will need to work with Elisa Laird to have your on-campus testing approved. Once approved, you will be scheduled for a date and time. If you have been exposed to any illness or are exhibiting any symptoms, you will not be allowed to test. You must bring your own face covering and have it on before you will be allowed to test. Once on campus, you also must maintain strict physical distancing guidelines. Per the proctored testing process, you will need to leave all belongings in a secured area, including notes, books, phones, and smartwatches. You will be allowed to bring in a bottle of water. Depending on the test and the program, more protocols may need to be followed.

    What do I do to prepare for the exam if I am approved to come to campus for testing? 

    Please confirm the details of your exam with your faculty member and Elisa Laird. You will also need to ensure you have the proper face covering and not be experiencing any symptoms.

    Tuition and Financial Aid

    Will students be required to pay increased tuition or fees because of this temporary closure and postponed clinical experiences?

    No. There will not be additional tuition or fees if a student needs to continue a course or clinical experience, or if a course has to be rescheduled or extended. Additionally, if a student has increased costs of attendance, for things such as rent, food, or transportation because a course or clinic is extended SMU will offer scholarships to those students for those costs. Students with this need will work with a financial aid counselor on a case-by-case basis to determine their financial need to successfully complete their program.

    Will the University waive tuition or offer refunds of any amount if a student did not choose online learning?

    We have every reason to believe this is a temporary situation, and when it resolves, we can return to our normal learning environment. While many students did not choose their program because it offered online learning, they did choose SMU because they were confident in our ability to help them succeed on their journey to become a nurse, a nurse practitioner, an occupational therapist, a physician assistant, a podiatrist, or a physical therapist. Right now, we believe students will achieve that goal and, after these temporary measures go away and we return to our normal learning environment, they will be ready. For these reasons, as things stand right now, we do not plan to offer tuition rebates or waivers. 

    Is additional financial aid available to students who need it?

    We have emergency scholarship funds available to assist students who experience unexpected costs due to this disruption, including for rent, food, transportation, and technology. These are being handled on a case-by-case basis. Students should contact financial aid for assistance. 

    Will my Financial Aid be delayed?

    The financial aid office will continue to process applications, pay financial aid and meet with students. Email financial aid or call 510.879.9200 with questions or to schedule a meeting. We can also have a virtual meeting if you are on self-isolation or quarantine. You can schedule a phone and/or Skype call using the contact information above.

    The impact to your financial aid is dependent on what actions the Federal and State governments and the US Department of Education implement going forward. Currently, they are giving universities more flexibility where it is possible. We will do everything we can to ensure the delivery of funds in a timely manner and mitigate negative financial impacts to students.

    What if I have a question about my student refund or about my student account? 

    For questions in regards to refunds please email the Student Accounts Office.

    We strongly recommend that students sign up for direct deposit so that you can receive your refunds quickly without waiting for your check to arrive by mail. 

    Can I continue to work through Federal Work-Study or student employment? What if I am on self-isolation or quarantine?

    With the University open, students currently employed in Federal Work-Study or as Regular Student Employees may continue to work. Students can continue to work remotely if the position responsibilities can appropriately be completed remotely and with their supervisor’s approval. For students that cannot work remotely, the University will continue to pay Work-Study students based on an average of previous pay period hours so that students maintain this source of financial aid.

    Graduation, Admission, Career, Contacts

    Is spring 2020 commencement cancelled?

    A final decision concerning the ceremony will be made soon. The current health and safety concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may lead us to the very difficult decision to postpone. In the meantime, campus planning for the ceremony is continuing. 

    To assist students in their planning for the ceremony, there are two links below.  The first provides general information about commencement and the second provides updated guidelines for students ordering graduation regalia.

    Commencement Info     
    Graduation Regalia Information

    Will employers consider SMU graduates who’ve been impacted by COVID-19 less desirable because of the curricular delays and changes?

    Every program and faculty member is constantly assessing student learning to the high standards demanded by the public, our accreditors, and SMU students themselves. SMU has a longstanding reputation of providing an outstanding educational experience and graduate outstanding professionals prepared to pass licensure and certification exams. We absolutely will be continuing to live up to that reputation.

    Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that COVID-19 isn’t just impacting SMU students or even just Bay Area students. It’s impacting the country, indeed countries across the globe. 

    Will admission to upcoming summer term programs be impacted? Should I register for summer courses?

    Yes. New, incoming students and continuing students should register for courses in the summer term as directed by the Registrar’s office.

    Because of the disruption to normal operations by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made the difficult decision to delay the start of the ABSN April cohort at the San Francisco Peninsula Campus to June and delay the start of the June, ABSN cohort to November. We will not admit a new cohort of ABSN students at the San Francisco Peninsula campus in November.

    We based our decision on the continuation of the shelter-in-place order in the greater San Francisco Bay Area through May 3 coupled with the current situation with clinical placements. Hospitals and clinical agencies are not able to provide clinical rotations for students given the stress the COVID-19 pandemic is placing on the health care system.  Thus, we need to ensure that we have clinical placements for currently enrolled pre-licensure nursing students when they are able to resume clinical learning.

    We have extended application deadlines, including completing all testing and other pre-requisite requirements. For specific changes and updates, please refer to the webpage below:

    ABSN Application Deadlines
    HESI A2 exams
    Student Health Requirements
    Student Orientation 

    NOTE: Student orientation is mainly being conducted online. Portions that need to be done in person will be when campuses reopen.

    As novice nursing students, how will we gain all the knowledge that we lost? Virtual lectures can easily cover all the material but I'm talking about the things that we could have learned in person through lab (i.e. specific procedures/use of devices)?

    The concern about not keeping up with the hands-on learning is completely understandable.  For students who have had limited clinical experience prior to the March 16 shelter-in-place order, the intention is to ensure that they are able to demonstrate competency in the required skills to do clinical work safely before we place them in the clinical setting.

    The SON faculty—and faculty across all programs—are using the time during this off-campus period to plan for a return to skills lab and simulation activities. The simulation center team of educators and technicians is preparing for a high volume of use of the sim center to ensure that students will have the experiences that faculty have designed for preparedness to go back to clinical work.

    If campuses remain closed into the next semester, is there a contingency for small groups to come to campus to learn and practice lab skills so we don't fall behind on in-person practice? 

    The University closely monitors regularly updated guidelines of the CDC and the California Public Health Department in order to determine how to keep students and faculty safe from the spread of COVID-19. At this time, student sessions for in-person learning in the labs or simulation areas will be reconvened when the campus is officially re-opened and will be structured to continue the preventive practices for virus spread.

    When can we resume in-person sim lab trainings instead of doing clinical hours online?

    The director of the simulation center has ongoing discussions with her team about re-opening the sim facilities at each of the campus for physical use. Her decision will be based on:

    • The date that Gov. Gavin Newsom establishes for termination of the shelter in-place directive for California
    • Guidelines by the CDC and public health departments for social distancing and group events 
    • Arrangements made with faculty from the various programs regarding what learning activities they have planned. The faculty and simulation staff are discussing and planning for activities upon return to campus
    • When she can ensure that the sanitation of the rooms and equipment can be maintained
    • We are planning for long sim center hours into the evening and weekends to accommodate what will likely be the rush to do in-person simulations
    Can we continue submitting things from our checklist after our program starts? For example, our program starts June 2, but quarantine ends May 29 and we can’t get BLS/CPR cert done before the program starts. Same with getting a physical check-up. My doctor's office has been closed and it might only open a few days before the program starts.

    There will be flexibility for completion of pre-matriculation checklist items for entering students. Communicate with your program’s admissions counselor if you are unable to do so.

    What will happen to students who have their certifications expiring next semester and are unable to renew them prior to the start of summer semester due to class cancellations relating to this pandemic?

    The American Heart Association has issued Interim Guidance on Extensions for AHA Instructor and Provider Cards During COVID-19 Outbreak. 

    "The AHA recommends that employers and regulatory bodies consider extending recognition of an AHA Provider Card beyond its renewal date, for up to 60 days. However, please know that it is ultimately up to the discretion of employers and regulatory bodies who require current AHA Provider Cards to consider allowing extensions during this time."

    At this time, the requirement to renew BLS or ACLS recertification for prelicensure nursing students is waived until the AHA discontinues its interim recommendations for grace periods for expired AHA provider course completion cards.

    Do you have a plan in place to test students periodically for the coronavirus once we are allowed back at clinical sites?

    Testing of students, or any healthcare provider for that matter, when working in a clinical setting will be driven by the protocols established by the CDC and public health department once social distancing has been terminated. Most importantly, it will be the clinical agencies where students do their rotations and preceptorships that will determine the need for testing and screening, just as they do now. SMU will comply with any new regulation or requirement that is established.

    Outside of supporting students in fulfilling their graduation requirements, is the school partnering with other institutions on a city or state level to help respond to the health crisis our community is facing? If so, what do those efforts look like?

    SMU is doing everything it can to help mitigate the impacts of this health crisis on students’ enrolled in our academic programs. In addition to efforts to maintain institutional operations as well as teaching and learning in a manner that complies with shelter-in-place orders, SMU is working with organizations at the local and state levels to position faculty, staff, and students to volunteer to meet identified needs if they choose to do so. SMU’s EHI Volunteer Digest includes a list of recently identified opportunities.

    What do faculty and experienced providers think about Governor Gavin Newsom's call to recruit students to help with COVID-19 patients in the California Health Corps (CHC)? Is it safe for students and patients alike? Will there be enough PPE?  

    Governor Newsom introduced the California Health Core Initiative on March 30. On March 31, the California BRN published a news release announcing that students can assist healthcare facilities in meeting the demands of the patient surge that is anticipated. On April 1, an email message was sent to all students from senior SMU academic leaders essentially stating: "... the decision to serve with the California Health Corps (CHC) is yours. We trust that you will make that decision based on your values, your particular situation, and your assessment of the risk and rewards of service."

    Students must be aware that SMU cannot provide any assurance related to the safety of any activities performed for any organization when there is no contract in place between SMU and that organization. For this reason, it is up to each student to ensure that any activities they opt to engage in can be done in the safest possible manner (e.g. with the proper use of readily available PPE). The question posed here regarding personal and patient safety in positions offered by the CHC is one that each person should consider asking the agency who is offering an opportunity to serve in the COVID-19 workforce. Will they provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for all of their workers?  What protocols are they following for healthcare provider use of PPE and social distancing?

    If a student wishes advice regarding the safety of the environment in which you have been offered a position, it would be prudent to consult your course faculty, your faculty advisor, or program administrator.

    Do you recommend that senior students sign up for the California Health Corps, and will my time spent working be counted as credit for clinical hours if I am hired in a student role?

    On April 1, an email message from senior academic leadership was sent out to all students that essentially stated, "... the decision to serve with the California Health Corps (CHC) is yours. We trust that you will make that decision based on your values, your particular situation, and your assessment of the risk and rewards of service."

    The School of Nursing has established a process by which prelicensure nursing students who are offered employment in a nursing-related position (e.g., nursing assistants, medical assistants, vocational nurse, nurse), through an agency registered with the California Health Core, are able to use hours worked in the nursing-related position to fulfill hours required for a clinical course. SMU's process has been approved by our BRN nursing education consultant, and by the university's Office of Academic Affairs.

    If you have registered with the California Health Corps and are eventually offered a paid position, please communicate with your program director or chair and initiate the process with them. If you are interested in exploring the possibility of working through the CHC as a student nurse, you should also communicate with your program director or chair.

    Are students covered by the school's insurance if they are hired by a clinical agency as a healthcare worker or employee through the California Health Corps or any other intermediary employer entity?

    You should clearly understand the three types of insurance to take into consideration when considering a paid employment opportunity that is offered to you through the California Health Corps. 

    Health Insurance—You must carry health insurance while enrolled as a student at SMU. You should be covered, according to the terms of your particular policy, whether you are doing a school-related activity or work-related activity. This is the case for Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage, the health insurance purchased through SMU. Students should be aware of any personal financial responsibility they might incur by obtaining care related to any injury experienced while volunteering. This could include any co-pays, deductibles, or other cost-sharing that might be standard features of their existing health insurance coverage.

    Workers compensation—Workers compensation insurance should be provided through any employer in California since California Workers’ Compensation law is a no-fault system for injuries connected with your employment, whether they are specific injuries or a disease or disabling condition. Your employer is required to pay for workers compensation insurance to cover all its employees. 

    Liability insurance—While SMU provides professional liability coverage for students that covers participation in formal educational experiences required by the University, this coverage does NOT extend to activities unrelated to a student's academic program. Consequently, it is up to each student to determine the existence and appropriateness of liability coverage provided by any employer.

    At what point will you need to pause classes until we can return to clinical so that our class content reflects the experience in clinical?

    The director of the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) has worked with the Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) to temporarily waive the requirement for concurrency between the theory component and the clinical component of a course. As a temporary measure to allow nursing students to progress in a timely fashion through their academic programs, direct patient care is not required to be completely concurrent with the theory component of the courses in the following nursing areas: geriatrics, medical-surgical, mental health/psychiatric, obstetrics, and pediatrics. Currently, there are no plans to alter curricular sequencing for any of the prelicensure programs, although contingency planning includes considering resequencing options. We are not considering pausing.

    What are your plans for supporting students going back into acute care settings for 1:1 preceptorship experiences?

    As of April 14, senior prelicensure nursing students in the last semester of their program now have the opportunity to complete or to begin preceptorship clinical experiences. These are being arranged on a case-by-case basis. There is a process established for approving and scheduling preceptorships that must be followed. Prelicensure program directors and chairs, working with the assistant dean for clinical affairs, are responsible for facilitating the process.  Students must refrain from calling hospital administrators in an attempt to arrange a preceptorship. Communication between program administrators and students is key.

    What has been the response from your clinical partner institutions (Kaiser, Sutter, etc.) and are they working with SMU to allow students back into clinical rotations through these established academic channels rather than hiring them through the CA Health Corps?

    Communication between SMU with both our major clinical partners, Sutter Health, our parent organization, and Kaiser Permanente, was initiated, at the highest levels one week after Governor Gavin Newsom's Executive Order on March 19 to shelter in place. SMU President Ching-Hua Wang communicated with Sarah Krevans, Sutter Health CEO, and Janet Liang, executive vice president Kaiser Permanente Care Delivery, offering Samuel Merritt University's assistance—in whatever capacity is appropriate—to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has resulted in ongoing communication between SMU and Sutter and Kaiser at various levels of each organization.

    In the ensuing weeks, communication, specifically between the SON dean and members of her leadership team, and nursing leaders from both Sutter and Kaiser has been ongoing and specific to not only the best possible ways to return our nursing students to clinical learning experiences but also how SMU nursing students can contribute to Sutter and Kaiser's workforce needs to manage anticipated COVID-19 related patient surges.

    Currently, prelicensure nursing students are being assigned to multiple patient care units in the Summit and Alta Bates hospitals of ABSMC medical center. Details about these and other student clinical placements are best provided by your program director or chair.

    The assistant to the dean for clinical affairs engages daily with other Sutter chief nurse executives to arrange for student clinical placements to assist with workforce needs while allowing students to complete clinical hour requirements at other Sutter medical centers.  Similarly, there are plans in progress to complete similar clinical placement arrangements in Kaiser medical centers in the Northern California region.

    What is the latest update on how the California BRN is assisting nursing academic programs and their clinical partners support students' completion of programs.

    This chronology of actions is provided to enable nursing students to understand the basis of the SON's decisions and actions related to prelicensure nursing curricular continuity:

    Governor Gavin Newsom's March 30 Executive Order (EO) N-39-20

    EO N39-20 included Order #5: "... the Director of the Department of Consumer Affairs may to the extent necessary and only for the duration of the declared emergency, waive any of the professional licensing requirements and amend scopes of practice in Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code, and any accompanying regulations ...The [DCA], in conjunction with the relevant licensing board [California BRN for example], shall provide guidance identifying the appropriate qualifications and scope of practice for each classification operating under a waiver based on sound clinical guidelines and the individual’s training, education, and work experience."  

    The launch of Gov. Newsom's California Health Corps (CHC) was also announced on March 30. These two actions (EO and launch of CHC) prompted all subsequent actions by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN).

    California BRN News Release, March 31, and Emergency Matrix Document.

    This is the key statement from the news release: “The Board of Registered Nursing advises healthcare providers and the public that nursing students can be deployed to assist in healthcare facilities today. These students will not be violating the Nursing Practice Act by providing services without a license.” The matrix document, also referred to as Nursing Services during Epidemic/Public Disaster AT-A-GLANCE, provides equivalency of standard nursing courses and nursing services roles. The BRN urged students to register in the California Health Corps (CHC) initiative to participate in COVID-19 workforce needs.

    This action by the BRN provided the SON with the legal foundation and regulation language to develop a process by which prelicensure nursing students, who chose to register with the CHC and were offered a position in a healthcare agency, could use hours worked as an employee of the aforementioned agency towards fulfilling certain clinical requirements. This process is operational. Ask your program director or chair for details.

    Order Waiving Restrictions on Nursing Student Clinical Hours under DCA-20-03

    Guidance on Waiver of Restrictions on Nursing Student Clinical Hours under DCA-20-03

    These actions by the DCA, provided April 3 and April 9, offer instructions for completing the specific documentation that the SON needs to have approved to waive BRN regulations and officially move forward with the contingency actions to allow students to progress through their program curriculum. The following list is not all-inclusive:

    • A decrease by 25% of the total hours in direct patient care in a clinical course to fulfill the total clinical hours requirement 
    • Application of simulation learning activities for up to 50% of non-direct patient care hours in a clinical course to fulfill the total clinical hours requirement
    • Flexibility in the concurrency of the students’ theory course experience with their in-person clinical experience
    • Flexibility in the timeframe in which students complete all course requirements
    • Allowance of hours worked as an employee for an agency registered with the California Health Corps (or other like entities) to be applied as clinical hours to complete course requirements, provided established criteria are meant
    • Establishing alternatively formatted clinical learning opportunities in the clinical agencies with whom we have clinical agreements (e.g., Sutter hospitals)
    • Opportunities to expand clinical learning opportunities while serving workforce need in community-based settings 
    • Opportunities to temporarily change curricular requirements

    The SON has submitted all required documentation and will continue communicating frequently with our BRN nursing education consultant. Many of the action items listed above are operational.

    Is there a backup plan for completing clinical hours?

    Yes, there are several contingency plans in place and in the making for ensuring that all prelicensure nursing students are able to complete the total number of clinical hours required for each course that has both a theory and clinical component.  

    Contingency plans are developed based on possible return to campus dates and the ability of clinical agencies to accommodate nursing students for educational purposes. It is extremely difficult to outline specific plans because there are still so many uncertainties related to the multiple, interrelated factors upon which contingency plans are based. What we know as of this writing:

    • Clinical agencies are beginning to accept students back into their institutions, in limited numbers, to complete clinical learning experiences
    • Clinical agencies are working with SON leadership to arrange for nursing students to assist in patient care workforce needs while accruing clinical hours to meet course requirements
    • Faculty are working continuously to bring all opportunities to fruition
    • Prelicensure nursing students may use the hours worked as an employee in a healthcare services agency (especially if that position was obtained through the California Health Corps) to accrue clinical hours to meet course requirements. There is an SMU-specific process that has been designed for this purpose—students should contact their program director/chair if interested
    • Prelicensure nursing students may be able to use hours worked in paid internships and disaster deployment circumstances to accrue clinical hours to meet course requirements. These are decided on a case by case basis. Students should contact their program director/chair if interested
    • Faculty are exploring multiple, innovative clinical learning opportunities—born out of need to meet COVID-19-related challenges—that will provide a wide range of experiences for students in the short-, intermediate-, and long-term.
    Do we have to stick together? If some students want to graduate or wait for a preceptorship and others don't, can we choose?

    Due to the challenges of providing clinical placements for all students during this temporary suspension of access to clinical learning experiences plus the shelter-in-place directive, it is extremely challenging to provide clinical experiences in the traditional cohort model students started the program with.  

    As of this writing, there are very limited opportunities for senior students to return to 1:1 preceptorship experiences. Senior students are being offered clinical learning experiences that will allow them to fulfill clinical hour requirements for the synthesis course. Each student is free to decline the clinical experiences offered at this time (i.e., in selected Sutter hospitals), defer graduation, and wait until assignment to a 1:1 preceptorship is again possible. However, there are no guarantees as to when the opportunity to arrange for such a preceptorship will be possible.

    How are graduating students going to be affected in terms of their NCLEX exam? Are we going to be able to take it still despite a pushed back graduation?

    Curricular continuity plans for prelicensure students, especially those due to graduate in May and June, are still focused on maintaining an on-time graduation date. Given the extremely fluid nature of virtually all factors that will allow for program completion, it is possible that students may not finish all graduation requirements on the date anticipated thus possibly delaying submission by SMU’s registrar of documents required to be eligible to sit for the NCLEX.  

    Concurrent with this possible delay on the student end of the licensure exam, is the fact that there has been a COVID-19 impact on the NCLEX, which is administered by Pearson VUE. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and measures imposed by the federal, state, and local governments, candidate testing was interrupted. NCSBN worked with Pearson VUE to reopen a limited number of testing centers as of March 25. The decision to reopen these centers speaks to the unprecedented need for nurses and their importance in the healthcare system during this time of global pandemic. 

    Some changes will be made to the NCLEX testing program to enable testing to resume. Key changes are addressed in the COVID-19 NCLEX FAQs, that can be found on the NCSBSN website.  Students who are planning to take the NCLEX in the next few months are advised to check the NCSBN website frequently.

    Will pinning ceremonies for the graduating prelicensure nursing students be conducted?

    The decision to hold pinning ceremonies will be aligned with the decision regarding May commencement. As of this date, a decision regarding whether to hold the May commencement as originally scheduled has not been made by President Wang.

    Will you consider omitting preceptorships since Gov. Gavin Newsom is calling for all medical professionals, including nursing students, to work and help with COVID-19?

    Since the establishment of the California Health Corps (CHC) on March 30, SMU has designed a process by which prelicensure nursing students who choose to register with the CHC, and who are offered a paid position in a nursing service position by a healthcare agency, are able to accrue hours worked as an employee towards fulfillment of the clinical hours required by a preceptorship experience. Generally speaking, the number of hours worked in a paid position would be more than sufficient to meet the preceptorship requirement.

    I was not able to finish my clinical hours last semester in one course due to COVID-19. What happens if I am not able meet my required number of clinical hours before the end of this semester? Will I fail?

    If you are unable to complete required clinical hours due to COVID-19 circumstances, you will not fail. Faculty have been instructed to use the grade of IP or "in progress" in these extenuating circumstances. The IP grade will allow you to finish the work during the next semester without a grade or financial penalty.  

    I would personally like to see a clinical hour report card, showing how many hands-on hours versus simulated hours we have completed. I don't want to do more simulated hours than what will count toward my degree. Can we keep track?

    Faculty across all the prelicensure have very detailed spreadsheets that track the various categories of clinical hours completed for both direct patient care and non-direct patient care.  This data was sent to the BRN and is also being used to make the clinical assignments that have been made available starting April 17.  

    We anticipate an incremental increase in clinical learning opportunities during the COVID-19 crisis period, which will allow students to finish their programs or progress further in their programs. Eventually, we will be able to return to the pre-COVID-19 group rotation and preceptorship clinical experiences that been a standard part of the curriculum. We also hope that new types of clinical learning experiences that are being instituted during this crisis period will also become part of the standard clinical offerings. However, we truly cannot predict when a return to "normal" will occur.

    If the January 2021 cohort is unable to return to clinicals for the next several months, would the administration consider letting us a do a "block" of clinicals toward the end of our program where we go to clinicals back-to-back for a couple of weeks in order to complete the required hours?

    SON Faculty are tasked with doing scenario planning based on several dates for return to campus and also a return of students to clinical placements.

    University leaders recorded an employee town hall hosted on WebEx May 8. Topics included returning to campus, hybrid teaching in the fall, University finances, focusing on academic support and success, and incoming summer and fall cohorts. 

     Watch Town Hall

    How will employees and student workers report time while our physical campus is closed?

    The University has created a new online electronic timecard so that non-exempt employees and student workers can submit all time worked. If employees or student workers have questions about the timecard, please contact the Office of People and Culture. For all future pay periods, only the electronic timecard will be accepted.

    How will exempt employees report/submit their absences while our physical campus is closed?

    The University is working to adapt the new online electronic timecard so that exempt employees can report any time off. Once that functionality is working, the Office of People and Culture will notify impacted exempt employees.

    Will current benefits continue for employees while our physical campus is closed?

    Yes, benefitted employees will continue to receive those benefits while our physical campus is closed.

    Will employees continue to work and receive compensation while our physical campuses are closed?

    The majority of University employees have been able to shift previously on-campus work to at-home, remote work, and therefore, have been able to continue employment and compensation. The Office of People and Culture is working diligently with any and all supervisors and managers to identify individuals who have job duties that have not transitioned to be able to work remotely, so as to identify alternative assignments for those individuals. 

    Will employees be paid additional compensation for taking on added responsibilities during the physical campus closure?

    All employees are asked to prioritize responsibilities and work with their supervisor/manager to maintain healthy schedules and work hours in their remote work environments. For non-exempt employees and student workers, they are asked to track and report all hours worked and will be paid accordingly. However, during this time, managers and supervisors are asked to reduce or eliminate all overtime as part of helping the University to identify cost savings. We know that all employees (as well as our students) have been impacted by the changing conditions, needs, and priorities. At this time, it would be impossible to identify anyone group that is more impacted than any other group, in terms of identifying the need for additional compensation. Instead, the University is reaching out to all employees to extend our gratitude and appreciation for their efforts, flexibility, and partnership in quickly adapting to our new way of doing business.

    Can I submit a request for a spot award for someone on my team or a colleague who has gone “above and beyond” during the current COVID-19 situation?

    The University is reaching out to all employees to extend our gratitude and appreciation for their efforts, flexibility, and partnership in quickly adapting to distance instruction and remote work. Simultaneously, the University has paused our spot awards process with the intention of reviewing the practice and procedures to ensure that the structure is set up to be fair and equitable to all involved. The University wants to ensure that we have a consistent, transparent practice in place that can be communicated to everyone before resuming the awards.

    Will employees be reimbursed for costs related to remote work during the physical campus closure?

    Due to the nature of this emergency situation, employees will not be reimbursed for any pre-existing expenses that were in place prior to the physical campus closure (i.e. cell phone plans, internet/WiFi plans, etc.). However, if any employee needs equipment or services that they do not currently have in place in order to successfully complete their job responsibilities at home (i.e. printer, scanner, etc.), then they are asked to speak to their supervisor/manager. The supervisor/manager will coordinate with ITS and/or Finance to authorize the purchase and provide needed equipment for an employee’s remote location.

    How will supervisors/managers continue to get updates and information while our physical campus is closed?

    The Office of People and Culture will provide communication updates in the form of regular (at least monthly) remote meetings, emails, etc. for all supervisors and managers. The last meeting was March 25. If you missed that meeting and did not receive the link for the recorded session, please reach out to Wendy Lee, Executive Director for the Office of People and Culture. If you are a supervisor or manager who is not receiving invites to the meetings, please reach out to Wendy as well, to be added to the distribution list. The next meeting has not yet been scheduled, but will likely occur in mid-April.

    Will the University hold employee-focused town hall meetings?

    SMU is committed to providing timely communication regarding the current physical campus closure and operations. Communication will be distributed through a number of formats – emails, updates shared with supervisors, and group town hall gatherings. We will work to share new and current information while being mindful of everyone’s time and competing priorities (both at work and with family) during this time. At this time, our next employee town hall meeting has not been scheduled.

    Campus Hours and Operations

    All University campuses are closed due to the Statewide Shelter-In-Place Order given by Governor Newsom effective March 19. SMU is only allowing essential personnel to enter campus for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions, provided that social distancing of six-feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible.

    Campus Access Screening and Signage

    Students, faculty, and staff are required to always wear official SMU ID badges to access University and Sutter buildings. Effective March 16, SMU has implemented enhanced security and screening protocols for physical access to the campuses by essential personnel to protect the community. To raise awareness of the new protocols, signage will be displayed at all campus entrances.

    Enhanced Campus Cleaning Measures 

    Custodial staff have implemented enhanced cleaning and sanitizing of our campus buildings, common areas, and offices. University employees who staff offices should routinely disinfect common areas and shared workspaces. 

    Custodial personnel have prioritized classrooms with increased frequency and scope of cleaning for table and desk surfaces, and keyboards and podiums, including increasing the use of disinfectants in high-traffic areas, such as door handles, elevator buttons, washrooms, etc. Also, staff have placed hand sanitizers and hand wipes in meeting and conference rooms.

    If campuses are closed, what does that mean for the University?

    Even though we have closed our campuses, university operations are continuing remotely and educational programs are continuing online.

    How long will the campus remain closed?

    The situation is fluid and the Crisis Response Team is actively monitoring it and meeting every day. We will continue to follow the order and guidance provided by Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health and provide updates to the length of the closure as they are made available. 

    I’m a staff/faculty member, can I come to campus to facilitate distance learning or to perform an essential function?

    Yes. SMU is only allowing essential personnel to enter the campus. SMU Personnel entering the campus are required to always wear your official SMU ID Badge. Please coordinate with your supervisor or manager prior to arrival.