Posted: 8/06/20

TAMIU Nursing Students Helping City’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing


Dr. Marivic Torregosa
Dr. Marivic Torregosa, Dean, College of Nursing and Health Sciences  

Texas A&M International University (TAMIU)  student nurses are part of an innovative partnership with the City of Laredo that is helping all-important contact tracing for COVID-19.

Dr. Marivic Torregosa, TAMIU dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences’  Dr. F. M. Canseco School of Nursing,  said she learned of the City’s need for contact tracing assistance from TAMIU president Dr. Pablo Arenaz and realized it presented a rare opportunity for School of Nursing students.

“Dr. Arenaz leads our campus’ COVID-19 Response Team and meets with the City pretty much daily.  He made us aware of  the Laredo Health Department’s need for contact tracing assistance.  We realized that this represented a real-world opportunity for our students to get hands-on experience in community health, become involved in  helping our hometown and our community health professionals.  This is something most students would only read about in a textbook. Instead, they are part of vital contact tracing that can help flatten COVID-19 transmission,” Dr. Torregosa said.

Richard Chamberlain, the City’s interim health director, said the contribution of TAMIU nursing students attests to a partnership and joint commitment to help the community. 

“Working on contact tracing efforts with TAMIU is a true testament of our strong partnership and our joint commitment to serve our community. Nursing students have always had a home at the City of Laredo Health Department to apply their knowledge and practice their skills in a real-world environment through practicums and internships. The COVID-19 outbreak will provide them with unique insight into public health practices and response efforts. We must remember that your health is everyone’s health during a pandemic. By working together, we will gain the upper hand and overcome COVID-19, ” Chamberlain said.

TAMIU president Arenaz said this latest University initiative joins other efforts focused on engaging with  and helping the community.

“Throughout our pandemic response, we’ve said we’re ‘TAMIU Together, Laredo Together,’ and this is the latest instance of this commitment to helping our community through this crisis.  We are so proud of our nursing students for stepping up and helping out. Our previous efforts have seen our School of  Engineering students and professor Dr. Tariq Tashtoush  create protective masks, shields and aerosol boxes for Laredo’s frontline  first responders. Working with our System, we were able to provide critically needed COVID-19 sampling kits.  Most recently, we’ve launched a new BS degree in Public Health, further extending our commitment to the health and well-being of our community,” Dr. Arenaz said.

About 60 TAMIU junior and senior level nursing students, led by Dr. Belva González,  are participating in the initiative, completing training and rehearsals with the Health Department and faculty supervisors. The initiative is considered a clinical experience and part of their class program for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. 

“Prior to participating in the activity, students were required to successfully complete webinar trainings from Johns Hopkins University and from the World Health Organization (WHO) on both COVID-19 and the mechanism by which it has become a pandemic. Once these were completed, a representative from the City of Laredo Health Department provided training on the process of contact tracing, use of the proper forms and communication techniques. 

“Before actually performing the first real contact tracing activity, faculty-supervised students rehearsed using forms and their competencies were assessed by  faculty. TAMIU Nursing faculty also completed the Johns Hopkins and WHO trainings and training conducted by the City of Laredo Health Department,” Dr. González noted. 

Torregosa said that while the larger benefit is to helping Laredo, TAMIU students are getting a truly insightful experience. 

“Through this lived experience,  students are developing first-hand understanding of the pandemic of our time.  This tracing activity also requires them to perform an accurate health history, communicate clearly and concisely, be part of a collaborative and be an important part of an interdisciplinary health care team.  It’s helped them to gain an  understanding of the importance of the nurse’s role in community and public health. I think it’s going to be an incredibly profound experience for all of  them,” Torregosa added.  

The TAMIU student nurses conduct the contact tracing on campus in a dedicated area with all-important social distancing and face-covering in place.

“We’ve created a call center on campus with phones provided by the Health Department. Each day, a group of 10 students, spaced 6 feet apart and masked,  conduct the contact tracing. The room and all phones are disinfected between all uses,” she explained.   

Torregosa said she’s tremendously proud of the TAMIU students and the contribution they are making to the City’s COVID-19 response.

“This is truly a show of care, commitment and support… and giving back to our community. That’s what all nurses do every day and these future nurses will be part of that caring legacy,” she concluded. 

The College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Dr. F. M. Canseco School of Nursing is approved by the Texas Board of Nursing and accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

In addition to its traditional BSN  program, it offers an RN-BSN (online), a Master in Nursing Administration and an online Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner Program.

Registration for Fall 2020 is now underway. TAMIUFlex, Hybrid, Face-to-Face and online courses will all have the same tuition rates. An online catalog containing a list of all undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs is at http://catalog.tamiu.edu

The University’s online COVID-19 Response Center is updated regularly and includes information on office schedules and services, an expansive FAQ, quick links, student resources, official information resources and much more. 

To learn more about TAMIU’s Back Together Plan for Fall, go to  https://www.tamiu.edu/coronavirus/student-faqs.shtml  Fall classes begin Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.

TAMIU  ranks 5th in the nation among the 100 Most Affordable Public Schools with the Highest Return on Investment (ROI), according to ranking authority Great Value Colleges. U.S. News and World Report’s 2020 Edition of its popular Best Colleges guide ranks TAMIU as the second highest-ranked Texas public university in its Best Regional Universities West category and the highest-ranked regional campus of the Texas A&M University System.

Most recently, TAMIU earned a top tier ranking for its COVID-19 Pandemic response. The 2020 Educate to Career College ranking placed TAMIU in Tier I for colleges and universities that have responded to the pandemic in ways that benefit and protect students, especially in terms of available online learning resources. Some 1200 colleges across the nation were reviewed.

As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, TAMIU’s campus is closed only to the general public. Entry to campus continues for students, faculty, staff and those having legitimate reasons to be on campus. Online and virtual services at the University continue, practicing all CDC Guidelines on gathering, masking and social distancing and with most staff working remotely.  

Office hours are subject to change and it is recommended that phone or email contact be made first to determine the office’s schedule of operation.  An online directory is here.


Related Links:

All About TAMIUFlex

TAMIU Back Together Plan for Fall