College of Nursing and Health Innovation adapts to virtual classes, clinicals amid COVID-19 pandemic

Nursing junior Allison Bui sits Sept. 1 outside Pickard Hall. Bui said she prefers in-person learning over virtual learning. 

Many nursing students in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation have adapted to new ways of learning since the start of the pandemic.

Clinical education is an important part of the educational experience for nursing students, and many students finished up their spring clinical rotations through the use of simulations, said Elizabeth Merwin, College of Nursing and Health Innovation dean.

“About half of our undergraduate students are enrolled in our on-campus program and for these students much of their course-work had to be transitioned to online,” she said.

Nursing junior Allison Bui said as more research is coming out with more COVID-19 cases, everyone is going to have to adapt quickly to different ways of learning.

“All of the professors and faculty within the nursing program work to make sure that all of their students are successful,” Bui said. “Even though I prefer in-person, I’m not in a very stressed out position.”

The pandemic has affected nursing students by not allowing students to visit COVID-19 patient rooms, group up or meet at hospitals.

Nursing students attend virtual simulations and participate virtually, Merwin said. Essentially these students experience an increased use of simulation, making it necessary for students to complete certain in-person clinical experiences.

Faculty members have worked with the college’s clinical agency to provide certain face-to-face clinical experiences for students, she said.

The Smart Hospital is a clinical simulation educational facility that is experienced in both teaching with simulation and online education. Some students attend in-person clinicals at the Smart Hospital, and some of the simulations are done online with faculty at the facility, Merwin said.

“We are fortunate at UTA CONHI to have our SMART HOSPITAL,” Merwin said. “We continue to increase the use of simulation within our SMART HOSPITAL to replace some clinical experiences.”

Many of nursing senior Christina Tan’s clinicals were switched to virtual classes this semester.

“Honestly, I’m pretty upset, because I was excited for pediatrics and [obstetrics], to see the kids,” Tan said. “It's because of COVID, and they don’t want us interacting with children and babies.”

Tan, who is part of the Asian American Student Nursing Association, believes COVID-19 will be around in the spring semester.

“The other clinical that I have is critical care, that is the only clinical I have right now that allows us to go into the hospital,” she said.

She understood why she wasn't able to visit local health care facilities but expressed how attending clinicals would benefit her nursing experience. 

For some students COVID-19 hasn’t made much of an impact on their academic environment, but it is taking social life on a whole different platform with how students learn their academics, whether it’s a shortage of supplies, communication or adapting to virtual classes with other students and professors.

“We have to be 6 feet apart, we have to talk louder across, and it takes more time I would say to explain different topics, because we’re all in different groups, and we are separated,” nursing junior Tien Tran said in regard to her in-person clinical.

Nursing supplies have been difficult to obtain, Tran said.

“It’s not even ready right now, so we couldn’t even start some of our nursing skills test[s],” she said. “That was kind of frustrating for our teachers, and for us, that we never knew it would happen.”

Krystle Gandhi, executive director of Clinical Informatics and Operations at John Peter Smith Hospital, said it would be a challenge to keep nursing students safe while they learn on-site clinical training, but it’s still a challenge to train students without on-site training.

“These nurses that are graduating are going to take care of these patients anyway,” she said. “We need to train them [on] how to handle this.”

@Arim_Neftali

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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