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How Hands-On Nursing Education Went Online During Pandemic

woman at computer distance learning
Valorie MacKenna
The Florida Channel
UCF nursing PhD student and teaching assistant Valorie MacKenna discuss moving nursing instruction to distance learning.

As a nursing PhD student and teaching assistant at the University of Central Florida, Valorie MacKenna solved an important problem when the pandemic hit: how to move hands-on simulation classes online.

WMFE spoke with MacKenna about what that virtual education looked like and whether it’s the future of health care instruction.

WMFE: How did you transition your nursing students online?

MacKenna: We could use the recordings of prior students in a simulation, and then share them as if it was a live situation happening with other viewers that were logged into Zoom. And they were watching as active participant observers.

WMFE: What was a normal simulation like pre-pandemic?

MacKenna: So, there was a scenario that I facilitated. And it’s a maternity scenario about a patient who recently gives birth. And then she experiences something called a postpartum hemorrhage, where she’s bleeding excessively after the delivery. So, when we were in the lab, live and in person, we had two students enter the room. Meet the patient, introduce themselves, perform an assessment, and then discover the fact that she’s not doing well, that she’s actually experiencing that hemorrhage.

WMFE: And how was it different post-pandemic?

MacKenna: We have the recording of the students doing one of these scenarios, and it takes about 15 or 20 minutes for the case to unfold. And in that case, those two nursing students perform and act as if they’re registered nurses. When they, you know, place a phone call to the provider, they’re actually calling me in the control room, and you know, and then they give a report on the patient’s status and then they receive orders from me as the provider, and then they go about, you know, the rest of the simulation.

WMFE: Do you think virtual is the future of health care education?

MacKenna: I think that while virtual or online things certainly have a place and they can be expanded. You know, we do have to learn how to perform and act in our roles as healthcare providers. So, you know, actually drawing up medications with a syringe, actually, you know, giving injections, talking to patients, practicing moving patients around, those kind of things have to happen physically. But there’s a lot of things that can be learned online for sure.

WMFE: How did you still incorporate hands-on learning?

MacKenna: Some of the teaching that you would think that needs to be physical, you know, we have figured out ways to do it virtually, like for instance, a health care assessment, where you want a nurse to be able to you know, listen to a patient’s lungs and feel for if they have pain in their abdomen and check pulses. We actually had students do that to a family member, and then do it in front of a video camera or like their webcam. And as long as they could demonstrate the hands-on practice of those skills to where their instructor could see it, then that, you know, that did substitute for what we traditionally would have done in the lab with students working on each other.