It has left the faculty overwhelmed, anxious, and a bit testy, only to prepare for summer session without a break. Now, think about what the students are feeling. During the last semester, they lost their clinical experiences, face-to-face access to faculty, and their sense of belonging to the student nurse community. Furthermore, they pick up on the faculty’s feelings, we project our unease onto the students, we have not been our extraordinarily talented and naturally confident selves, and the students can sense that.
The first few weeks after we came back from Spring Break, were pretty awful if I must admit. Lectures were put onto a virtual platform, which crashed, had unidentified people interrupting our courses, and would go slow due to heavy use. Online exams were compromised, students lost clinical time, and even the Sim Man himself was made virtual. Through all of this, the students were at a loss. I tried to disseminate information as quickly as possible, but this was not enough—the students needed more. Not only were they going to school full time, but they were also now taking care of their spouses and children full time. Then, they were told they had to become homeschool teachers, creating an atmosphere of overwhelming chaos! I started online virtual office hours and found the students were just really needing a space. They would log in to have some conversation, not always about nursing school. At this same time, a friend of mine had created a virtual Coffee Shop for his coaching business; I would watch the recording from afar-due to the time zone difference—as they gathered, drank coffee, and had a lovely time laughing and supporting each other. I was chatting with another faculty about how the students seemed to be struggling and were hankering for contact. She suggested implementing the virtual Coffee Shop idea into my class, and thus the “Coffee Shop” came to life!
On Friday mornings, I have a virtual session for my students to hang out in a semi-structured environment. Since I teach research, we talk about many things based on nursing research, dealing with self-care, mindfulness, and fun…but we do not talk about school. How it works is each week we have a Discussion Board topic that is self-care or mindfulness related, that starts on Monday. During the week, we post pictures and discuss the topic (in addition to assigned classwork since none of the Coffee Shop part is mandatory). Then, on Friday, we hang out and do an activity based on the week's topic.