HealthJuly 10, 2020

COVID-19 crisis: Faculty support for nursing students

Pam Embler, MSN, PhD, RN

As we all continue to respond and adapt to the mitigation strategies to reduce the COVID-19 spread, faculty and nursing students find themselves in uncharted territory.

The traditional nursing student is now an online student and further stressed as clinical rotations are cancelled. The RN-BSN students are juggling increased work hours and shifts while trying to maintain attention to school responsibilities. Faculty themselves may be feeling out of sorts as they find themselves as online educators for the first time. Faculty and students do this and more as they strive to maintain work, family and school balance.

The overall effect of these changes may lead to increased stress, anxiety and generalized feelings of being overwhelmed. Now more than ever, it is important that we communicate with each other, practice patience and not underestimate the importance of being flexible. Here are some best practices that we as faculty can support our nursing students:

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate

This is a point that cannot be over emphasized, and it is equally important to faculty and students. Faculty members need to be upfront with students. For example, if your usual response to emails may take longer or if assignments will take longer to grade and return, consider online “office hours” each week. Encourage your students to come and go as needed to ask questions, seek clarification or just visit. Faculty should make it a point to email and call students who are not attending class or whose participation has diminished.

2. Consider quality over quantity during this time

his is most important for the faculty members new to the online environment. Your traditional method of course delivery has been turned upside down. Consider contacting your textbook representative for online resources, provide opportunities for students to attend recorded or real-time webinars and be open to continuing education opportunities like, The Institute for Health Care Improvement Open School Basic Certificate in Quality and Safety or United States Department Office of Minority Health Cultural Competence Training Modules.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing and The American Nurses Association has gathered valuable resources for faculty. There are weekly webinars, tips on teaching nursing concepts and information to share with students.

3. Familiarize yourself with your college or university student crisis response plan

Be prepared with important contact numbers and names of individuals available for students in distress. While symptoms may vary, a student in distress may self-isolate, suffer cognitive problems, express feelings of hopelessness or futility, exhibit behavioral changes and express thoughts of suicide.

4. Where and when appropriate share in moments of spiritual support

The Nurse Christian Fellowship has assembled for both students and faculty, professional and spiritual resources and materials.

Students will look to us as faculty to provide a sense of calm, organization and continuity during this time. Let’s continue to be there and support them as best as we can.

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