KOKOMO, Ind. – Now that fall semester is in full swing, nursing students are getting settled into their new schedules. But just before classes began, faculty took time to prepare them for clinicals with a refresher “re-boot” camp.
More than 200 sophomores safely practiced putting on and taking off personal protective equipment, starting IVs, administering prescribed medications to virtual patients, and other tasks in the Indiana University Kokomo School of Nursing labs.
Juniors Kaylee Bohn and Lacey Hale cared for virtual patient Mr. Jones, taking his vitals, starting his IV, and recognizing his anxiety and depression through a mental health screen.
Hale liked that the exercise was not for a grade, but just to help.
“I didn’t feel as scared as I would have, because I knew this was just about helping us remember the skills we had learned,” she said.
“It gave us the starter we need to prepare for the semester,” Bohn added. “Now we need to go home and get back into the books, to focus on our skills.”
Carolyn Townsend, assistant dean for the prelicensure nursing track, said spring semester students only had one week of their clinical experience before remote learning began.
“We were able to do some things virtually, but it wasn’t hands-on experience,” she said. “Our concern was when we came back this fall and moved into clinicals, the students wouldn’t have the skills they needed to move forward.”
In the first-floor simulation lab, set up like a hospital ward, the sophomores cared for virtual patients, under the guidance of faculty members.
Upstairs, in the skills lab, which is like a doctor’s office, they completed patient head-to-toe assessments and also practiced correct procedure to don and doff PPE — a skill that has always been important, but is more critical than ever in the current environment.
“We want to be able to assure the hospitals and long-term care facilities that allow our students to learn with them that our students are up-to-date and current with donning and doffing,” she said.
“I think this was very helpful,” said Shelby Fouch, a junior. “It helped me get the nervousness out, and so I feel more comfortable going into clinicals again.”
Bridget Whitmore, clinical associate professor of nursing, moved the juniors to a simulation in the Art Gallery for room to include more students while physical distancing. Students rotated through stations for hands-on experience with manikins, taking vitals on newborns and assessing post-partum mothers.
Many are nervous, especially about caring for babies.
“Babies’ heartrates are much faster than adults, and they cry during assessments,” she said. “We have neonatal manikins that can cry, so they get used to caring for a very small patient, who is crying.
“The students get so much further along in their assessments, and their confidence in doing them, because they have a knowledge base and skills base when they walk in for the first time. They aren’t so nervous in front of the patient.”