Like most universities and colleges across the country, on a Friday in March 2020—as the world was reeling with the onslaught of a global pandemic—Resurrection University’s administration made the decision to move all of its in-person programs online. The Chicago-based university also had to halt its clinical placements for nursing students—an integral component of the clinical programs.

“We had to pivot quickly,” says Dr. Connie Zak, dean of the College of Nursing at Resurrection. “Our BSN program was traditional, fully in person, but we had to come up with a virtual way for students to complete clinicals based on what was happening across the country and throughout the world. We didn’t have all the tools in place.”

Researching Virtual Clinical Simulation Products

At the suggestion of a former colleague at Purdue University Global, where she served associate dean until 2019, Dr. Zak researched Sentinel U, a division of American Sentinel College of Nursing & Health Sciences at Post University. Sentinel U’s digital learning resources and virtual simulations seemed an ideal fit.

“We incorporated products such as Sentinel City, Prioritization of Care Specialty Series, Interprofessional Teams, and Patient Management and Delegation into our BSN capstone course, community course and in other places,” Dr. Zak says. “These products allowed our program to make the shift to online more smoothly and helped our students continue their learning.”

A Great Value

With a goal of educating nurses to enter the workplace prepared to give the best possible patient care, Resurrection University’s nursing leadership has found that virtual clinical simulations offer excellent value-add. “We think a lot about value when we evaluate these virtual clinical simulations,” Dr. Zak explains. “We’re not only enriching the education that students receive, but making sure they develop critical thinking. This optimizes students’ learning.”

Throughout its BSN program, Resurrection University’s goal is to help students think like nurses, which involves critical thinking, evaluating scenarios, determining course of treatment based on different situations, and more. “Certainly, nurses can’t listen to lungs in a virtual situation, but they can develop their critical thinking very well,” says Dr. Zak. In this pandemic era, nursing students need more support. Virtual scenarios like these can help students develop the cognitive skills they need in the dynamic healthcare environment.”

Plans to Augment In-Person Clinicals

Resurrection University will reopen full in-person didactic learning in fall 2021. Although the university did not need to replace all clinical hours with a virtual simulation option, the university will continue to use Sentinel U’s virtual clinical simulations in a different way.

“I look at them now as a complement to the didactic classroom piece,” Dr. Zak says. “We’re using some of these virtual clinical scenarios to enhance the overall learning by standardizing our clinical activities. That way students build both their clinical and critical thinking.”

Adaptable for Different Environments

Sentinel U products are ideal for helping nurses sharpen their evaluation and critical decision-making skills in a no-risk environment. The scenarios provide virtual clinical hours, but also provide a motivating, challenging, and engaging way for learners to experience meaningful content and build their knowledge.

At Resurrection, Dr. Zak says that the products have been adaptable at a time when they especially needed adaptability.

“Our faculty had to get up to speed quickly,” she says. “And it was easy for them to do so, and the support at Sentinel U was excellent.” As Resurrection develops its 2021-2022 curriculum, they plan to integrate Sentinel U virtual scenarios and simulations in a new way. “Critical thinking is essential for nurses. I think that’s what these products do for our students quite effectively. They develop that in our students.”