The Boise State nursing program gets creative with conducting clinical courses online

As the semester comes to an end and students and teachers continue to adjust to instruction online, certain majors and departments still have extra work to do to ensure that students are meeting requirements for their degrees and certifications. 

The nursing program, along with many other degrees that require clinical courses conducted in local hospitals, has had to get creative with how they continue these courses now that going to the hospital has become impossible. 

“So when this pandemic came about, I had taught online before but not full-time clinical, so it was somewhat disheartening because I love the personal interaction with my students,” said Christina Barron, adjunct faculty in the nursing program. “But I’m still very happy knowing the technological platforms that were available.”

Barron said that although the transition would still allow for students to interact with most of the material, virtually facilitating clinicals online does come with its challenges. 

“It’s very difficult doing the clinical component because, yes, seeing those meds, seeing those changes, everything at the bedside — it’s just something you cannot mimic in the virtual world perfectly yet,” Barron said. 

Barron is currently working in San Francisco at a clinic for patients who are COVID-19 positive and are on dialysis. 

Because of the technology the university uses for virtual class meetings, Barron has the unique opportunity to share elements of her day-to-day life at the front of a global pandemic with her students

“They can have their notes around them, and they can respond and they can flip through things and have it available if they should need it,” Barron said. “It’s more, in my opinion, a relaxed environment and I definitely have the educational philosophy that the more relaxed the student is, the better they learn.” 

Teachers were forced to adjust their courses to the best of their ability to ensure that the nursing students were still able to stay on track with their degrees. Meanwhile, students had to reconfigure their lives in attempting to learn the same material without being at the hospital in-person. 

“Moving online has been kind of interesting because we’re not getting that real patient experience that we’re going to need as nurses, but it’s just kind of all within the situation,” said Caitlyn Woods, a junior nursing student. “How I’ve been looking at it is, while we’re not getting the real patient experience, we get a little more in-depth of certain conditions so when we have someone with it, I’ll know more about it more so than if I were to just kind of know about it.” 

The students were given studies of imaginary patients to study and have to work with them in a similar manner to how they would a real patient if they were in the hospital working alongside health professionals. 

“I think real person experience is always going to be better because it’s hands-on and I just think hands-on learning is good, especially when our career is in person. But I think so far the case studies have done a pretty good job [and]lets us focus on some things a little more in-depth, which is nice,” Woods said. 

Though there are obvious downfalls to having clinicals being conducted completely online, Woods said that she felt she was still getting adequate training considering the circumstances. 

Similarly, Dylan Schilling, who is completing his first year in the nursing program, said that he did not feel that finishing the semester online was setting him back. 

“The professors and staff did a great job at devising a plan where the students can stay at their dorm or house or whatever their living situation and we just meet with our clinical professors through Zoom,” Schilling said. 

Schilling said that there are still elements of the class that remain intact such as how they evaluate patients real or imaginary, and this has made the change seem less dramatic. 

“With the scenarios and cases that the professors are able to give us, I still feel that [the professors]are able to test our knowledge with the skill set by what we learned and what we do when we answer the questions,” Schilling said. “The main thing is we’re just not actually doing the skill if we come across it.” 

The nursing program has been able to rise to the challenge and ensure that students still have the opportunity to learn and gain experience despite staying at home, despite the abrupt need for change. 

By preserving the elements of clinicals that they can, and making the most of technology that the university provides, the program continues to educate the next generation of nurses while also fighting the global health crisis.

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