A new school year is upon us, and nursing educators are, once again, facing a great deal of uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic. The highly transmissible Delta variant is a game changer. It is spreading faster and infecting a significantly younger and otherwise healthier population, putting enormous strain on our healthcare system.
Many in the healthcare field are feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed, and powerless. And those feelings are not limited to the doctors and nurses serving on the front line fighting this pandemic. It’s also impacting those of us in academia who are training the new recruits in this war on COVID – nurses.
Here are some tips prepare for whatever this new wave brings:
Live and Learn
This is the second full academic year impacted by COVID, but the environment is drastically different this time. Now is the time to embrace the lessons learned, experiences and best practices to proactively implement a smooth and effective year.
Lean on your institutional knowledge to offer students a seamless academic delivery, regardless of modality. Digital communication platforms and simulation programs were integral in daily instruction last year and will continue to serve an important role in maintaining a superior level of education for your students.
Prepare to Pivot
As nurses, we are trained to be prepared for any emergency, and COVID-19 is no exception. It requires the same degree of planning and precaution. However, in this situation, your ‘go bag’ should not include bandages and alcohol swabs, but, rather, the essentials needed to prevent interruptions in your students’ education.
Now is the time leverage the best practices established last year and use them to your advantage:
Have your digital tools ready should you need to cancel in-person classes. Nursing schools were able to overcome disruptions by using virtual simulation to teach core concepts and provide clinical experience. Beginning the year with these programs embedded into coursework on day one will ensure students feel comfortable in a virtual space long before its required.
Align virtual courses and simulation activities with your curriculum. Take the time now to review what lessons are available and make sure they include relevant healthcare concepts and principles that map directly to your objectives.
Use simulation to draw relevant parallels with situations nurses are facing today. Students can develop skills in areas of particular importance during the pandemic such as prioritization of care and telehealth through virtual yet highly realistic simulated patient encounters.
Maintain meaningful experiences. Labs and clinicals may be suspended due to COVID-19, but students can still gain authentic experiences by using virtual simulation. They can also earn clinical credits, ensuring their graduation is not delayed.
Establish resources to keep students connected. Asynchronous learning can be a challenge for many students. Be sure to schedule time for them to come together and discuss what they’ve been learning.
Show your support. Change can be stressful. If your school switches to virtual learning, communicate often and use a wide range of platforms to connect – texting, phone calls, Zoom and email.
Let your students know that they are not alone. Encourage collaboration with Facebook groups, virtual study groups or Microsoft Teams chat streams where students can discuss coursework and reinforce lessons learned from simulation lessons.
Build your infrastructure. Make sure your institution has a plan in place should courses transition to remote delivery, especially for low-income or disadvantaged students. Consider researching free Wi-Fi programs in your area or asking your administration if there is a laptop loan program available for qualifying students.
On Tuesday, August 17 at 11 a.m. EDT, Sentinel U® will be hosting a webinar where I will be moderating a panel of leading nurse educators to explore the pandemic’s continued impact on instruction and how nursing simulation will continue to play an integral role this fall. Joining me for this important conversation will be Director of Simulation-Based Education at UCONN School of Nursing Valorie MacKenna, Ph.D., RN; Assistant Director of Clinical Nurse Educator Simulation at the University of Washington School of Nursing Simulation Center Keondra Rustan, Ph.D., RN, CHSE, CNE; and Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Arizona College of Nursing Amber Kool, DNP, RN.