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HealthSeptember 21, 2020

How to bring the current pandemic into the undergraduate nursing classroom

By: Melissa Bartholomew, MSN, BSW, RN, AGPCNP-BC
There is a global pandemic going on. We are inundated with it every day on the news, social media and during meetings. Despite hearing about it every day, it is still an important part of healthcare we can teach our undergraduate nursing students. In this post, some ideas of how to bring the pandemic into the classroom to help educate students will be discussed.

Current events

Take a few minutes at the beginning of each class to have a current events discussion. There is new information related to the pandemic almost daily, so continuing an up to date discussion on a regular basis will help to engage the students to discuss changes and evolving findings related to Covid-19. A discussion can be had on how evidence-based practice influences the changes in findings. Have the students bring news articles/clips that are from the current week to discuss in class. Consider if there is a way to correlate your lecture topic to the current event. For example, if your lecture topic is infectious disease, have the students compare the similarities and differences between Covid-19 and influenza. This activity can be complete both in-person and online.

Unfolding case study

Build an unfolding case study for a client who is diagnosed with Covid-19. Create a client based on your course, such as a patient reporting to the emergency department, a patient at home being seen by the home care nurse or a resident of a skilled nursing facility. Utilize the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) website for Coronavirus ( to identify symptoms the client would have. Include the self-symptom checker within the case study for the students to identify the recommended treatment for the client. Have the students create a client education plan to teach the client about their disease process and help to reduce the spread of the disease.

Contact tracing activity

Complete a contact tracing activity with the students. The CDC and John Hopkins University both offer free contract tracing training. Your school may also offer information on how they are completing contact tracing. Using the information you gather, have the students identify the number of people they have come in contact with within the timeframe you identify. Calculate the number of people the class encounters. Have a discussion of how one person being infected with Covid-19 would affect your class and the number of people they encounter and how it can spread easily in gatherings. Incorporate how diseases spread and the importance of how to prevent the spread. If you teach community/public health, contact your local health bureau/department of health to see if there are ways your students can be involved in their contact tracing efforts for clinical hours. This usually involved phone calls, which can be completed for online courses as well.

Create education materials

The students can create educational materials on Covid-19 signs and symptoms, wearing masks appropriately, handwashing, social distancing and/or quarantine. This can include handouts, PowerPoint presentations and videos. Speak to your school, local K-12 schools, retirement communities and other local agencies to see if they can take advantage of this education. Nursing students could provide the education “live” in an online platform if requested.

Journal articles

There is an increasing number of journal articles related to Covid-19. Students can provide article summaries or presentations related to the journal article. If your course has a research paper, consider including topics that can incorporate Covid-19.

Including education on the current pandemic will help to advance the students’ knowledge and bring real life into the classroom.

Melissa Bartholomew, MSN, BSW, RN, AGPCNP-BC
Expert Insights Contributor for Wolters Kluwer, Nursing Education
Lippincott® Nursing Education
Preparing today’s students to become tomorrow’s nurses
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