Minot State’s BSN Completion Program Relies on Sentinel City® for Meaningful, Safe Virtual Clinical Experiences
“It’s well-known that public health clinical sites are few and far between,” says Danni Reinisch, who has earned a Master’s Degree in Nursing Education and is a Public Health Nursing Instructor at Minot State University. “Identifying clinical sites and managing agreement opportunities for students has been a huge challenge.” Students in Minot State’s BSN Completion Program are spread around the U.S., so establishing relationships with clinics and other public or community health facilities is a complex, time-intensive effort. Student placement isn’t the only problem. “Finding meaningful clinical experiences in a safe setting is also difficult.”
Diverse Experiences in a Safe, Virtual and Online Environment
Reinisch learned about Sentinel City® from colleagues at the school two years ago. Since then, she has used it in class to complement didactic instruction and “real-world” clinical placements, and now relies on Sentinel City exclusively for distance learning. She teaches online as well as on campus, so is in an ideal position to evaluate virtual clinical simulations in context with traditional teaching approaches.
She typically starts the semester by assigning a windshield survey. Students take notes and capture images using the application’s built-in notepad and screen capture “camera” as they go through the town, looking at the determinants of health – age regions, gender mix, signs of poverty – and compile what they observe into a report.
Each week, students explore Sentinel City and work through a task that she selected from the assignment catalog. The focus can be on the entire community, one neighborhood or a single family. For example, she uses the Family Support and Home Assessment with Care Plan assignment so nursing students learn and practice how to interview a patient, make observations in a patient’s apartment, then develop a comprehensive care plan based on all information collected. Reinisch also assigns the Public Service Announcement to inspire developing messages for diverse, targeted populations, in addition to other assignments.
The gamified virtual setting creates both expected as well as unanticipated advantages. “Sentinel City allows for a lot of creativity when students are coming up with community interventions and messaging programs. There are so many different ways that you can do things. It’s exciting to see the direction students take. I learn from them!” She adds that there’s never a situation in which she worries about student or patient safety. “With Sentinel City, students can explore in the safety of their home computer and gain confidence before working with patients. Plus, they know that if they make a mistake, it’s within the safety of the virtual learning environment.
I think Sentinel City is a great alternative for public health programs and their students for a number of reasons. It provides a diverse clinical experience in a safe setting, students have the flexibility to work at their own pace for the most part, and it fosters creativity which provides a more meaningful learning experience.”
Tool for Teaching
“What’s been really beneficial for me is that I know exactly what they are doing and seeing, and I’m able to understand if they are meeting that week’s learning objectives. The proof is in the work they turn in each week,” Reinisch says. The 23 assignments, range of skill categories, 17 different characters and requirement to provide rationale for responses add up to an effective learning experience. If a student is struggling, Reinisch can quickly recognize the problem via the metrics dashboard or completed assignments and reach out to them to drive home any troublesome concepts.
Nursing programs are fast-paced, and any way that you can provide students with a safe environment that allows them to build confidence before being face-to-face with patients is advantageous. Reinisch sums it up this way: “I think Sentinel City is a great alternative for public health programs and their students for a number of reasons. It provides a diverse clinical experience in a safe setting, students have the flexibility to work at their own pace for the most part, and it fosters creativity which provides a more meaningful learning experience.”