It’s very clear that there is nothing “usual” about 2020’s back-to-school time. COVID-19 has led to unprecedented uncertainty for nursing school administrators, educators, and sim lab coordinators everywhere. Finding clinical placements has become even more difficult than before, so the potential to offer learner experiences that “close the gap” between academic and on-the-job settings have diminished.  When the pandemic hit in March, clinical rotations were suspended, leaving senior students short of clinical hours needed to graduate and underclassmen unprepared for their next year. RNs in professional development programs put their career aspirations on hold.

With all this, one thing is certain: there is an immediate need for more well prepared, well-educated nurses to contribute to remedying this public healthcare crisis. That’s a topic for future discussion.

Immediate and Long-Term Solutions

The solution, at least in part, lies in pivoting nursing education to solve for the immediate problem and evolving programs to address past and “new normal” challenges – without compromising the quality of education or clinical experiences.

One of our client school educators, Stevie Gire, is a Clinical Instructor teaching in the RN pre-licensure program at the University of Utah College of Nursing. When COVID-19 necessitated closing the sim lab last spring, she added Sentinel City® to their community health course to give students the experiences they needed to continue the semester. You can learn more about Gire’s experience with our simulation, which offers up to 30 simulated clinical hours, here.

In California, simulations are being promoted as a long-term solution to coping with clinical placement challenges which have existed for years, the shortage of nurse educators, and the growing preference for self-paced, online learning. In an effort to change the clinical hour requirement regarding the percentage that must be in a direct patient care setting, the presidents of the California Association of Colleges of Nursing and California Organization of Associate Degree Nursing wrote to the Governor, asking to reform rules “that were written so many years ago.”*

Exactly what those new rules will be for California and other states is yet to be determined. In the meantime, programs are looking for innovative, proven tools to deliver the quality content, specific training, and a portion of the practice experience vital to developing clinical judgement skills – in an environment safe for patients and staff alike.

Sentinel U’s Back to School 2020 Learning Solutions

Direct patient experiences can’t be completely replicated virtually, but virtual has been proven to be an effective, affordable and accessible teaching approach and part of the solution to short- and long-term nursing education challenges. In California, allowing for clinical simulations and scenarios to account for more clinical hours would put almost 14,000 learners a step closer to their aspirations, which includes battling COVID-19.

How can we keep learners learning when clinical placements impose unnecessary risk? One way we are answering that question is by expanding our portfolio of clinical scenarios for today’s healthcare education needs. Our portfolio has tripled in size to include Telehealth, Interprofessional Teams and Prioritization of Care Specialty Series products. These focus on areas where it is difficult to find in-person clinicals, such as:

  • Med-Surg
  • Pediatrics
  • Mental/Behavioral Health
  • Maternal Health and OB
  • Geriatrics

We welcome the opportunity to introduce you to our newest virtual clinicals and discuss how you plan to take some of the uncertainty out of your programs in 2020. You can demo many of our simulations and scenarios on our website.

If you’d like a personal demo, contact us at 800-749-2427 or To learn more about Sentinel U™, explore our website.