Friday, December 4, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 40

Santa Maria Sun / School Scene

The following article was posted on November 17th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 38 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 38

Cuesta College nursing students graduate and provide essential health care services amid the pandemic

By Kasey Bubnash

Kelly Maguire was just a few months away from completing Cuesta College’s registered nursing (RN) program when COVID-19 first started making its way around the Central Coast. 

RN Kelly Maguire graduated from Cuesta College’s nursing program in May and was almost immediately hired at French Hospital Medical Center in SLO, where she provides support essential to beating COVID-19.

As cases trickled into San Luis Obispo County in March, Cuesta closed its campus and canceled in-person classes. In an effort to limit person-to-person contact and reserve personal protective equipment, local hospitals also stopped allowing students into their facilities for the clinical rotations that are required for graduation.

But unlike nursing programs across the nation that were derailed by the pandemic, Cuesta found a way to continue classes through online instruction and clinical simulations, and by May, Maguire was able to graduate. That, she said, could only be described as a bittersweet moment. 

“No one expects to graduate nursing school in the middle of a pandemic,” Maguire said. 

Maguire is one of about 20 recent Cuesta College nursing grads hired at Dignity Health hospitals in SLO and Santa Barbara counties amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an experience that Maguire said has been at once completely overwhelming and incredibly rewarding. Dignity Health has a long-standing partnership with nursing programs on the Central Coast and hires recent grads annually, but this year’s group faced unparalleled and unexpected obstacles, both in actually graduating and upon entering the workforce. 

When schools closed across the Central Coast in the spring, Cuesta transitioned to online instruction. So Maguire and her classmates worked through various scenarios and case studies over Zoom, discussing what kind of treatment they’d offer to patients with theoretical symptoms or diagnoses. By early April, Cuesta’s nursing students were able to return to local hospitals for the hands-on clinical experience that Maguire said is vital to truly learning what it takes to be a nurse. 

Shortly after her graduation in May, Maguire was hired as an RN at French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, where she’s worked with a few COVID-19 patients. She felt nervous about it at first, but then she thought back to all her training—the hours spent studying, the days working side by side with other health care workers during clinical rotations—and she felt lucky to be able to offer some kind of assistance at a time when so many feel like there’s no hope. 

“During the pandemic, sometimes a lot of people feel helpless,” Maguire said. “But we had just learned everything and gotten all of this training, and we were able to apply it.” 

Sara San Juan, a spokesperson for Dignity Health Central Coast, said Maguire was one of six recent Cuesta grads hired at French Hospital in SLO. Arroyo Grande Community Hospital also hired six grads, and Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria hired eight. This year’s nursing grads, San Juan said, have been important in the fight against COVID-19. 

Their help is even more important now that cases of COVID-19 are surging on the Central Coast and throughout the nation. 

“While some of them do not work directly with COVID-19 patients, they are vital in supporting health care in our communities during the pandemic,” San Juan wrote via email. “Their presence allows us to manage staffing levels in each department to best care for our patients.” 


• The Santa Maria Public Library recently announced that it will resume passport processing services starting Nov. 17 at the Main Library, located at 421 South McClelland St. The services will be by appointment only on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon, Wednesdays from 1 to 3 p.m., and Thursdays from 3 to 5 p.m. Those interested in making an appointment can call the library at (805) 925-0994, Ext. 8566. Application forms, information on documentation required, fees, and other information can be found at More information about the library’s passport services can be found at

• Santa Barbara County announced that the Parks Department received a private stocking permit for up to 16,000 pounds of triploid rainbow trout in Cachuma Lake for 2020-21. “The first 4,000-pound delivery arrived late October, with the second delivery arriving just in time for Veterans Day,” according to the county. 

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash wrote this week’s Spotlight. Send tidbits to

Weekly Poll
Would a second stay-at-home order be effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19?

No, pandemic fatigue is too high to get people to follow a stay-at-home order.
Yes, we need it, otherwise our hospitals will be in rough shape.
Local governments should get a say—not all purple tier counties are the same.
It would be bad news for the economy.

| Poll Results

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