When the Coronavirus prompted Kansas Governor Kelly to order schools closed, the faculty and students at Pitt State had to become innovative and create new ways to teach and learn. Due to the efforts of Associate Professor Kristen Frisbee and her team at the Irene Bryant School of Nursing, PSU was able to transition to virtual simulation and ensure student nurses would meet the clinical requirements of approval and accrediting agencies.
“When the announcement (was made) that all courses were to go online, we had 45 students who needed 56 hours of virtual community clinicals,” Frisbee said. “There are a lot of resources available for other classes such as Med-Surg, Psych, OB, Pediatrics and Advanced Med-Surg, but there is very little available for Community Health Nursing.”
The Community Health Clinical instructor team of Anna Beth Gilmore, Judy Coltharp, Ashleigh Heter, and Kristin Frisbee worked together to identify the most vital Community Health topics that were most important for the students to “dive into” and think critically about.
“In nursing we call this clinical reasoning,” Frisbee said.
The instructors had eight days with seven hours per day to fill with activity in a virtual manner. Frisbee and her team developed a template that they followed for each of the topics to develop a 3 and half hour experience for each. Students tackled a different topic each morning and afternoon of the eight days. The university was able to get free access to some Avatar-type clinical experiences, which were used for four of the 16 sessions. The instructors created experiences for the other 12 sessions. Those experiences included textbook and internet searches, watching YouTube videos, preparing briefs on their findings and then debriefing about their findings in a Zoom session.
“The debriefings were my favorite part of every day,” Frisbee said. “Together we reviewed the reports and spent time thinking about the meaning of their findings, and how they could use their findings to help patients in the situations.”
“Being a nurse is so much more than doing the things that nurses do,” Frisbee said. “In fact, most hiring managers tell us they can easily teach the hands-on skills. They want graduates who can think like a nurse—using good clinical reasoning and judgment. These virtual clinical experiences focused on those skills.”
Frisbee said the simulations are fun ways to actively practice the concepts of community health. With the virtual clinicals, students had the opportunity to engage with populations that are not available for usual clinicals, such as veteran’s health, victims of violence and homeless populations.
Students and instructors spent every Tuesday morning investigating the changing situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, then comparing statistics and the situation to the previous week’s situation. At the end of the four weeks of clinicals, Frisbee said they prepared a report with their recommendations for future public health officials on how to manage a pandemic.
“We are committed to providing the best possible preparation for our nursing students who will be headed out into the nursing workforce and facing the challenge of COVID 19,” Frisbee said. “…In addition to meeting the other healthcare needs of people, in a safe way, that enhances patient outcomes.”
Piper Misse, a senior in the BSN program, said she was proud of how her class and nursing faculty worked together to meet the challenges presented by the shutdown.
“I am immensely proud of how my class and the nursing faculty weathered the transition to online coursework,” Misse said. “It came with bumps in the road, but at this point, we have successfully completed all of our finals online and gotten through all of the necessary material.”
Frisbee said she believes the student nurses are ready to step into their upcoming positions and make a difference for their patients.
“So, in some ways, this clinical session better prepared them for practice than our usual one did,” Frisbee said. “In fact, we are thinking we will incorporate some of the activities we developed into our lab-based sessions in the future.”