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HealthNovember 25, 2020

Free resources to help meet nursing curriculum successfully during COVID-19

By: Katie Morales, PhD, RN, CNE
Like many educators, we found ourselves scurrying to make changes last spring due to the pandemic. We were tasked to change a traditional face-to-face senior 210-hour internship to an online virtual experience in less than a week with no budget.

The course faculty were pleased with what we created. Students were also very pleased and commented on how they could choose activities to meet their desired patient population (such as pediatrics or obstetrics) and practice setting (such as oncology, emergency department or intensive care). I wanted to share how we used resources that were free or already available to meet the learning outcomes. I will also describe some methods to ensure integrity in the delivery of the content.

The setting was a private liberal arts college in the Southeast United States with 36 senior BSN students. The course faculty included three full-time faculty and two adjunct faculty.

The curriculum changes were based on the Adult Learning Theory. Adult learners are typically internally motivated and self-directed. They can bring life experience and knowledge to learning experiences. They tend to be goal and relevancy oriented. They prefer practical application and desire to be respected.

The course design was an iterative process. We began by contacting our regulatory bodies (college, state, national) to see what would be permissible. Next, we looked at the program and course learning objectives. We then reflected on what the benefit of the senior internship had been traditionally and considered appropriate strategies to replicate that online. We drafted some proposed ideas and posted them on OneDrive to seek faculty feedback.

Students could choose from a list of faculty-approved activities each week. We increased the use of resources already purchased by the department of nursing, such as Lippincott case studies and vSim, ATI and Keith RN case studies. A challenge for this last senior level course was that we had used these resources extensively throughout the curriculum. We also included the use of free courses offered online, such as Coursera, FEMA, IHI. Students could select online simulation games like Full Code, Virtual Healthcare experience, Septris, Blood Typing Game, and LevelEx. We created unique activities to mimic simulation and meet course objectives such as a movie activity, writing NCLEX questions, a Covid-19 reflection paper, and a public health plan. Students had to submit documentation of completion for the activities. Many of the activities included certifications that could be added to the student’s resume.

We used the school learning management system as much as possible to post the assignments and to communicate. We had weekly synchronous check-ins with the students and with the faculty. A consideration was to match the faculty workload as much as possible. We wanted the activities to be student directed without increasing the faculty workload unnecessarily. A main consideration for the students was graduating on time. A major consideration for the faculty was to ensure students were ready for licensure exams. We also wanted to reduce the opportunity for cheating. In retrospect, the use of programs such as Turnitin would be helpful.

In all, this was a positive experience for the faculty and students. We ended the semester with a virtual pinning ceremony. Students are reporting good NCLEX pass rates, although the official report is not in yet.

We have found several online nurse educator groups such as Teachers Transforming Nursing Education, who have been very forthcoming with sharing their successes and failures. We recall reading a note of encouragement last spring saying educators were not suddenly teaching online classes. They were teaching traditional classes online. As we look to future semesters, let us all remember it is an iterative process. We have more time to consider the best options. We can be encouraged by our past experiences which we can build upon.

Katie Morales, PhD, RN, CNE
Expert Insights Contributor for Wolters Kluwer, Nursing Education
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