Campus Community / Science / Technology and Health

Training Future Frontline Health Care Workers Remotely

Written by Tina Potterf

May 18, 2020

College of Nursing student in training with a patient.

Image credit: Yosef Chaim Kalinko

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College of Nursing replicates in-person clinical work in a virtual model.

With online instruction the norm at Seattle University and other colleges and universities across the country, one may wonder how programs that typically require hands-on and tactile engagement for learning replicate such an environment virtually. Case in point—the College of Nursing, whose faculty and staff were tasked with transitioning a clinical setting, one that works largely with patient simulators and in-hospital training, into a virtual format.

In reality, it presented a multitude of challenges, great flexibility and creativity on the part of faculty, says Clinical Assistant Professor Dan Cline, PhD, RN, ANP-BC.

“The most significant change was adapting what would be an in-hospital clinical experience to a virtual or online clinical experience,” he explains. “You may ask, ‘How can you do that?’ It was a herculean effort!”

With the support of his College of Nursing colleagues, including Suzan Knowles, Lisa Abel, JaHun Kim, Heather DePuydt and Linda Trippett and guided by a shared commitment to keep nursing students on track and moving forward on their journey to become registered nurses, Cline says the first order was to explore options in the world of virtual simulation programs. 

“We have an amazing simulation center, the Clinical Performance Lab (CPL) led by Dr. Carrie Miller, and she and her team were instrumental in helping to identify quality virtual simulation programs for us to review and explore to see if any would meet our needs,” says Cline.

Going virtual meant first coalescing a team, which included faculty who teach and coordinate the college’s clinical and in-hospital courses, along with CPL staff, to carefully review simulation software programs to find options that best fits the needs of the CON. The college settled on three virtual platforms, which offer relevant clinical scenarios.

“We then went to work on redesigning our syllabi to match the new format. We put a lot of thought into how we could keep the students engaged and help them develop good critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills,” he says. “We designed our virtual simulations around the current simulation standards put out by INASCL (International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning).”

But the big test was if, in fact, the virtual model would be on par with the in-person, experiential learning that is so vital to nursing education. Turns out, it is close, as evidenced by students as engaged as they would be in the clinical setting.

“… The questions they asked and the issues they have in the virtual simulation are often the same questions and issue we see in the actual clinical setting,” says Cline.

One positive outcome of such a difficult, unprecedented and anxious time is the stronger sense of community, of everyone banding together for the betterment of students and the Seattle U community as a whole.

“I think what it says to me is that the faculty and staff here at SU and the CON are truly committed to the traditions of Jesuit pedagogy and student-centeredness. It sounds trite, but as a new faculty member here, I do think our mission … focusing on students really helped us commit to making virtual sim an experience that students could learn from,” he says. “The COVID-19 pandemic has really highlighted how we can come together as a team to do something unprecedented and innovative.”

And Cline adds, “We would all be remiss if we did not thank the students for their patience, kindness and willingness to be flexible with the faculty as we worked to pull this all together. So, thank you to our students!”

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