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From classroom to hospital bed, CSU-Pueblo’s nursing students get no escape in fight against COVID-19

Colorado State University-Pueblo’s School of Nursing and Health Science finds itself in a pivotal moment; equipping students with the skills necessary to enter the medical field to fight COVID-19, while also abiding by demands the pandemic has forced on them.

“Right now, our intent is to keep the flow of nurses going out there in treating people,” said Dr. Joe Franta, associate dean for the nursing program. “COVID is a big interference with a lot of things but we are adapting stuff directly as we can to meet both the needs in the healthcare industry and in training our future nurses.”

For the fall semester, the School of Nursing will utilize a hybrid model. Groups of students in the traditionally hands-on program will rotate between face-to-face and remote learning models. Franta said the program is currently working with local hospitals to secure access for clinical sites.

“Clinicals and our simulation labs, we have put pieces of it online for prepping the students but at a certain point, you actually have to make contact in a simulation… or with patients from the hospital in a clinical setting,” Franta said. “Those hours are still the most difficult because obviously patient care, you are a little closer in contact when you are in the hospital setting.”

The hybrid model slated for the fall is part of a gradual return to face-to-face clinical and simulation practice. Following CSU-Pueblo’s announcement to move all coursework to “online or distance formats” on March 12, the School of Nursing limited face-to-face instruction to clinical settings. Simulations were moved to a virtual program provided by the school.

“We would all meet at the same time online using zoom and the provided platform,” said Mikayla Brenneman, a nursing student entering her fourth year. “We would run through scenarios and practice how to be a nurse in that given scenario… After completing the simulation we would then discuss what we could have done better and what worked well.”

Face-to-face simulations were allowed to reopen for summer classes with the approval of university leadership given adequate Personal Protective Equipment and other precautions were in place.

“We had masks, face shields, gloves available, lots of handwashing, social distancing talk in mind with (reopening the simulation unit),” Franta said. “In the fall, that’s our plan right now as well. Our simulation unit, and this is kind of just exciting news, we are moving to a new building… We should be in the new building August 2nd.”

The new simulation unit building is double the square footage of the previous one, coincidentally providing more space for students to socially distance, Franta said. While Fall plans are slated for face-to-face clinical simulations at limited capacity and clinical work in local hospitals, that could be subject to change.

“I did have several sessions that I plan to restart in the fall where I met with each cohort of students and just had an open meeting where we could talk about their concerns, what they felt they needed more of and how we could address that,” Franta said. “Obviously, we prefer to be face to face but the pandemic is driving some of that out of our control.”

Brenneman, who is set to graduate from the School of Nursing in Spring of 2021, said the possibility of having a fall semester with online simulation labs would be difficult, but not impossible to overcome.

“Changing my learning style will be hard but I trust that the nursing program and the school can get us through it,” Brenneman said. “It will definitely be hard because nursing is so hands-on that there is only so much you can do online to learn how to be a nurse.”

Like many other nursing students, Brenneman is supplementing her nursing education with working at Parkview Medical Center.

“Working at the hospital during this time has certainly been insightful as to what is going on in the healthcare field and what my future will look like,” Brenneman said. “It has still been a really good experience as far as getting hands-on learning… It’s keeping me up to par with what I am learning but we still need school.”


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