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HealthFebruary 18, 2021

Faculty best practices in supporting nursing students: New year and new semester - same challenges!

By: Pam Embler, MSN, PhD, RN
Let me start by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. While the turning of the calendar did not change the challenges faculty and students will face this spring semester as we continue to work to reduce the Covid-19 spread, take heart. As a veteran online faculty, I would like to share some online best teaching practices and practical tips.

Many of you and your students are now “online.” Faculty and students may be feeling out of sorts as they find themselves online for the first time. For many students, the technology is more stressful than the curriculum content.

We are all striving 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. Establish an environment ripe for learning

Faculty will more easily engage the student in an environment of respect and trust. Faculty need to let students know that they are invested in their success. More than any other area in higher education, the development of the advanced practice nurse has far-reaching contributions to patients, families, communities, and the population. When faculty serve as facilitators, coaches, and co-learners open to receiving knowledge as well as imparting knowledge, the student sees themselves as a contributor to the learning process, not just a receptacle.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate

This is a point that cannot be overemphasized, 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.

3. Consider quality over quantity during this time

This 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.

4. Establish course expectations and provide skills for success

Faculty should clearly communicate the importance of reading the syllabus in its entirety. In addition, students should be instructed to check for course announcements and email communications daily. Faculty should strive to provide succinct and concise syllabi—everyone’s time is valuable and lengthy syllabi often go unread. Do not provide excessive course announcements or students might quickly become blind to them. Timely, succinct, and concise announcements that provide pertinent course information such as assignment due date reminders and overall motivational statements can help to maintain course interest and engagement.

5. Hold the student responsible

Faculty should not be afraid to challenge students by asking them what kind of students they want to be. Challenge the student to consider their academic professionalism in the same way as their practice professionalism. Assignment due dates are not arbitrary just as medication times, procedure schedules, etc. are not arbitrary in practice.

6. 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.

7. 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.

Pam Embler, MSN, PhD, RN
Expert Insights Contributor for Wolters Kluwer, Nursing Education
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