Bellarmine University faculty leading the fight against COVID-19



As the COVID-19 crisis continues, many Bellarmine University faculty, students and alumni are serving on the frontlines in the fight against the virus.    

They are teaching others in the community too.

Recently, three Bellarmine faculty members participated in a virtual panel discussion with Kristin Wingfeld, Coordinator for School Business Partnerships in Jefferson County Public Schools, to offer expert analysis on the pandemic that public teachers may use in health science classrooms. 



David G. Wolf, chair of the Department of Health & Aging Services Leadership joined along with Sarah Pehlke, a respiratory therapist in the Respiratory Therapy Program, and Lori Minton, director of the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program and a nurse supervisor at local hospitals.

Minton kicked off the discussion by detailing ways that Bellarmine’s undergraduate and graduate nursing programs have prepared nurses for a pandemic.   

“Our curriculum covers basic disease management in the acute care settings, like hospitals, as well as leadership roles, research and evidence-based practices in nursing. We do touch on emergency management, such as a pandemic,” she said. 

She said nurses have been at the forefront for issues that have dominated headlines, like serving as ambassadors for the need for effective personal protective equipment, like face masks. 

Also, as patients with COVID-19 are isolated, nurses are often in the position to provide much needed emotional support, not just medical care.  

“When you get into nursing, you know that comforting patients is a huge part of taking care of them,” she said. “When there are no visitors, you’re that ear or if they’ve got a phone, you can help them stay in touch.” 

Pehlke, who teaches in Bellarmine’s respiratory program, explained that respiratory therapists are on the front lines of saving lives, as well. 

“We’re working with patients who come in with difficulty breathing, which is the primary concern with COVID-19,” she said. “We’ll do an assessment and make recommendations based on our findings for how we’ll care for that patient.” 

Care may include breathing treatments, breathing tubes and continued monitoring of oxygen levels. She said respiratory therapists have been vital in the national discussion about the number of available ventilators.  

“We know how to manage these machines on a breath-by-breath basis,” she said. “I predict one of the first things to happen after the crisis has passed is there will be an analysis of how many breathing machines we actually have and how many respiratory therapists there are, because the machines don’t do any good if you don’t have someone on the other side to manage them.”

Wolf talked about ways COVID-19 has affected older people and the ways they are cared for.       

There have been dramatic changes causing the long term care industry to take a look at how they are doing business. 

“Long term care has been impacted in many ways, in many different levels,” he said. “There have been dramatic changes causing the long term care industry to take a look at how they are doing business. It’s going to forever change our industry,” he said.

He said Bellarmine’s health and aging services program poises students to be leaders in this rapidly changing environment. 

“Leadership for me is the majority of what we teach…..” he said. “We’ve got Bellarmine students now who are interns inside nursing homes. When I speak to CEOs of these companies, I say, ‘I want those students there as long as it's safe,’ because those students are gaining experiences that are invaluable to their career. Those students are learning how to run a facility during a crisis under pressure and they will come out much better for it on the other side.”

Pehlke said as much as the crisis has challenged health care providers, it’s also deeply gratifying work.  

“I chose this career because I want to help people,” she said. “I want to give someone the gift of life they wouldn’t otherwise have if I wasn’t there.”      

Tags: Aging , Nursing

About Bellarmine University

Bellarmine University is a vibrant community of educational excellence and ethical awareness that consistently ranks among the nation’s best colleges and universities. Our students pursue an education based in the liberal arts – and in the distinguished, inclusive Catholic tradition of educational excellence, the oldest and most rewarding in the western world. It is a lifelong education, worthy of the university’s namesake, Saint Robert Bellarmine, and of his invitation to each of us to learn and live In Veritatis Amore – in the love of all that is beautiful, true and good in life.