In March of 2020, Texas Tech’s School of Nursing went from a face-to-face program to an online program within 48 hours, Amanda Veesart, associate dean and department chair for the School of Nursing, said.
Veesart said the nursing school had only been planning to transition online for a week when the program officially transitioned all its students online successfully within 48 hours.
According to the Texas Tech University Health Science Center website, the School of Nursing is a very hands-on program.
“Being a hands-on program, the nursing school was very quick to immediately identify what can be done remotely and still provide high-quality instruction but supports the students and keeps them safe,” Susan Calloway, a professor for Tech’s Graduate School of Nursing, said
As part of the high-quality instruction, the simulation center quickly determined a new method for the Standardized Patients (SP) to meet on Zoom with the students to continue their SP scenarios. As the simulation aspect is a big part of the hands-on learning experience for nursing school students, so are the students’ clinical hours to partake in, Calloway said.
“The clinical portion where we would normally be taking them to the hospital, we were able to supplement that with virtual simulations. It is a computer gaming program where the students got to make their own decisions," Morgan Ashley, an instructor for the Tech School of Nursing in Abilene, said. "The students would see a patient, get a report, then it would ask them what decision they wanted to make."
Ashley said students could decide to do multiple things to their patients like start their IV or take their temperature in the virtual simulations. In the end, it would give the students a lot of feedback on what they could have done differently.
For the professors, when they had to adjust to being online, they had to flexible, and they faced challenges because things were changing very quickly at the beginning of the pandemic, Ashley said.
“The challenges to me were making sure to make that connection with the students still even though we aren’t face-to-face," Ashley said. "There is a different way of connecting with your students on Zoom versus if we were in a classroom setting."
According to Ashley, losing non-verbal communication caused professors to put in a bit more effort to remind students that the professors were still engaged and were present with them.
For the students, during COVID-19, so far, a class has graduated in May 2020, August 2020, and December 2020, Michael Evans, dean of the School of Nursing, said.
When nursing students graduate, they have to take a licensing exam for the Texas Board of Nursing called NCLEX. During the three graduation periods of COVID-19, 97 percent of first-time Tech nursing graduates took the NCLEX exam and passed, Evans said.
School of Nursing students did not give up when the pandemic hit, even when restrictions were changing every day. The faculty and administration worked diligently to ensure their student’s education would not be put on pause due to the pandemic.