Online education has become a fact of life during the pandemic, and on-campus nursing schools have been looking to online institutions for guidance. What should on-campus nursing programs know about the challenges of remote instruction, and what lies ahead for online teaching? DailyNurse asked Dr. Camille Wendekier, Program Director and associate professor for the Online Masters of Science in Nursing at Saint Francis Universityand Dr. Tom Kannon, Program Director of the Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Program at Regis College to share their perspectives on distance education in the COVID era.
What are the greatest challenges that nursing instructors face when teaching in a virtual environment? What measures can they take to overcome these challenges?
Dr. Tom Kannon, Regis College: When teaching in the online learning environment, you have to remember that, for the majority of the time, the students don’t have that tangible face-to-face interaction with the instructor. Most courses are asynchronous, and it can create a bit more anxiety for the student than a regular class as they cannot simply raise their hand to get clarification for something on the spot.
As an instructor, you have to be mindful that students are in and out of the course at all hours of the day and night, and will email with questions at all hours. It is best to try to keep to a schedule for replying, such as all emails will be responded to within 24 hrs. It is also necessary to still have scheduled virtual office hours that provided a more tangible connection to the instructor if help is needed. Another necessity is to have a contact list for technology support.
Above all else, clear communication is vital. Things happen, it’s inevitable, but communicating with the students that an issue is known and is being worked on, and providing updates, does a tremendous amount to quell uncertainty and anxiety. One major adaptation has been the need to provide greater flexibility in the clinical arena. Regis implemented use of various simulation experiences to meet some of the requirement, and implemented expanded use of telehealth for precepting to try to enhance the ability for students to achieve meaningful clinical hours towards meeting competencies.
Dr. Camille Wendekier, St. Francis University: The biggest challenge in a virtual environment is maintaining the personal student connection. Nursing faculty can offer small group and individual tutoring via video conference applications such as Google Meet or Zoom. The ability of the course instructor to mentor reasoning and knowledge construction can move students beyond using rote memory associated with passive learning activities such as reading or watching recorded lectures.
Video sessions also offer students an opportunity to introduce themselves on a personal level… Such activities help the course instructor and students better understand the uniqueness of each person in the class and the unique contributions each student can make to the learning experience. Knowing each other on a more personal level can help add excitement to learning, which could improve the metacognition associated with learning.
The other challenge is providing for testing security during stay-at-home orders. There are many companies that offer remote testing services, but several of these companies were unable to offer their services during the pandemic, so schools needed to investigate alternative options. It is important to adopt a secure testing application that has a good workflow for both the faculty and students. In addition to workflow, it is also important to consider the Internet requirements of each application in relation to Internet resources that students have at home… [so students] can take the test without losing connectivity.
In the wake of the accelerated changes brought on during the pandemic, what are the key developments in online education that you hope/expect to see over the next 5 years?
Dr. Tom Kannon, Regis College: I hope to see greater inclusion/implementation of telehealth/teleprecepting for students. The COVID pandemic has shown us how quickly providers can adapt to using telehealth and how successful it has been in maintaining provision of care to millions of people.
I expect that for an institution to stay successful and positively impact their students’ education, all courses will be interchangeable between live and online, with maybe more of a mix of synchronous and asynchronous courses. I also expect to see a growth in the creation of more robust clinical simulation experiences that colleges/universities can tap into to provide greater flexibility to their students.
Dr. Camille Wendekier, St Francis University: Key developments in online education over the next five years may include:
Requiring faculty to obtain Distance Education Certification—either offered by the University or by an outside entity.
Utilizing more Virtual Clinical Simulations as allowed by State Boards of Nursing and accrediting agencies. These simulations will improve over the years with the use of more avatars and more critical thinking virtual experiences.
Utilizing more Google Meets or Zoom sessions to provide for more personalized classes and office hours. These videoconference sessions allow the course instructor and students to interact in real-time and discuss the course information in relation to individual learning needs.
Peggy Compton, Ph.D., RN, FAAN has been selected as one of the US nurses to be inducted into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame, which will recognize 19 new members at the Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) 31st International Nursing Research Congress on July 25.
Compton’s research—grounded in her practice as a neuropsychiatric nurse in different public treatment settings—specializes in the study of pain and opioid addiction, with a particular focus on the effects of addiction on the functioning of human pain systems. Her award from STTI recognizes her valuable contributions in the field, including the development of key tools such as family/personal histories of addiction and the consideration of psychiatric disorders and opioid use patterns to assess the presence of and potential for substance use disorders, as well as her study of opioid-induced hyperalgesia in patients on chronic opioid therapy. According to Penn Nursing Dean Antonia Villarruel, “Dr. Compton is one of the few nurses working in the area of pain, opioids, and addiction and how they intersect. She has built a significant program of research that includes one of the most widely used tools available to physicians and nurse practitioners to evaluate risk for misuse of prescription opioids in chronic pain patients.”
Compton is currently on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing Psychiatric Mental Health NP program. She received her BSN from the University of Rochester before earning an MS from Syracuse University, a PhD from New York University, and completing a post-doctoral fellowship in substance use disorders at the University of California at Los Angeles. Of her award, she says, “I am honored to receive this most prestigious award, which represents a pinnacle in the career of a nurse scientist. Not only does it reflect the importance of nursing research in addressing critical public health issues, but also the profession’s commitment to meeting the needs of vulnerable, underserved and sometimes stigmatized patient populations, such as those with addiction and pain.”
For a full listing of the 2020 inductees into the International Nurse Researchers Hall of Fame, see the announcement at the Sigma Nursing site.
The Department of Health and Human Services is hoping a $107.2 million-dollar award will help to expand care in rural and underserved communities. The special funds will go out to 310 recipients in 45 states and US territories in an attempt to increase financial and professional support for physicians, faculty, dentists, nurses, and students working in high-need areas.
According to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, “Supporting a strong health workforce is essential to improving health in rural and underserved communities. We’ve seen stark disparities in health and healthcare access contribute to the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Four nursing education programs will benefit from this award:
The Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP), which provides funds to accredited nursing schools for loans to students in advanced education degree programs who are committed to become nurse faculty.
Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students (SDS), which supports school scholarships for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are enrolled in a health profession program or nursing program.
The Nurse Anesthetist Traineeship (NAT) Program, designed to increase the number of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), especially those providing care to rural and underserved populations.
The Nurse Education, Practice, Quality and Retention (NEPQR) Interprofessional Collaborative Practice Program (IPCP): Behavioral Health Integration (BHI), which directs funds to develop behavioral health services in nurse-led primary care teams in rural or underserved areas.
Nurses receive some disaster training, but as one New York nurse recently remarked, “We learned about a pandemic in school maybe for one day. Like it was literally one slide in one class…” Remedying this problem is a key concern in the Johns Hopkins report, “Recommendations for Improving National Nurse Preparedness for Pandemic Response: Early Lessons from COVID-19” and educators are already taking steps to add pandemic coverage to disaster nursing curricula. DailyNurse spoke to one of these educators, a member of the reporting team, Dr. Tener Goodwin Veenema, PhD, MPH, MS, CPNP, FAAN, about her role in the effort to update disaster training and education for the COVID-19 era. Dr. Veenema is a contributing scholar to the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Professor of Nursing and Public Health, and author of the textbook Disaster Nursing and Emergency Preparedness.
DN: What sort of changes are you proposing in terms of disaster education and training?
TGV: I’ve been writing disaster nursing courses since before 9/11. And of course the focus after 9/11 was much more on deliberate acts of terrorism, and there was concern over natural disasters as always—pretty much the way the book [Emergency Nursing and Disaster Preparedness] was laid out—chemical, biological, and radiation events that may be human-caused. But now, because of the pandemic, the shift has really become much more public health focused.
Clinical nurses actually have to be public health nurses as well.
[At present], nurses get infection prevention and control coverage in school, but it’s at an introductory level. It’s not to the degree of what we’re experiencing now, where clinical nurses actually have to be public health nurses as well. So, we need to give nurses a better understanding of advanced concepts in infection control and prevention, and how to implement what we call intervention and containment strategies—non-pharmaceutical interventions, which includes things like social distancing, the use of masks, and frequent handwashing; closure of schools and businesses, and parks where people congregate.
More than anything else, the pandemic reveals where nurses did not have experience with the proper selection and use of personal protective equipment. It goes beyond nursing. Some of these problems were outside of nursing, for instance, the hospitals had failed to make a real commitment to emergency preparedness—to procure adequate supplies of PPE, or ensure that they had a vendor supply chain that would allow them to ramp up if they needed to order more. So, what I am advocating—and I’m working on a course right now—is to address these issues and strengthen prelicensure and nursing schools, and also continuing education to ensure that nurses have the knowledge and skills that they need not only to participate and survive, and protect themselves in this pandemic, but in future infectious disease outbreaks as well.
DN: As you mentioned earlier, there are many different sorts of disasters. Is there some sort of tool-kit that can increase nurses’ readiness in whatever emergencies might arise?
TGV: I define a prepared nursing workforce as a workforce that has the knowledge, the skills, the abilities, and the willingness to respond to these types of events. FEMA advocates what is called an “all-hazards” approach to disaster planning, which means that communities are charged with coming up with disaster response plans to address each and every hazard that might occur in their geographical area. Now for nurses, I think that they need to have a minimum knowledge base and set of skills on how to respond in an emergency and on how to continue to provide healthcare services within an environment that may or may not be safe.
The thing about a pandemic… is that it’s characterized by uncertainty…. Also, it’s everywhere.
I think that the challenge for the pandemic is, when a tornado or a hurricane hits, the event happens, and then it’s over. We move through the phases of the disaster lifecycle in a pretty straightforward manner. So, even the most horrific hurricanes that we’ve experienced over the past three years, they end. There have been extended periods of recovery—you can make the case that Puerto Rico has not yet recovered from Hurricane Maria—but you can plan for what’s going to happen. The thing about a pandemic, though, is that it’s characterized by uncertainty. For instance, we were anticipating a second wave this fall, but what we’re seeing is, we haven’t finished the first wave, and things are spiking again.
Also, [unlike most disasters, with a pandemic] it’s everywhere; it’s not geographically isolated in one region of the country. And of course, given the total absence of leadership at the federal level, now you have [states that are] basically 50 countries that are forced to address 50 different pandemics. That’s not the way you do it, so we’re failing there.
DN: Nurses have historically been on the front lines of response to disasters. What can be done to adapt the curriculum to provide them with better training and support for nursing in emergency and disaster situations?
TGV: I’m working hand-in-hand with AACN to help write an emergency preparedness competency to go into the revised Essentials document, so that schools of nursing will have a competency to teach to. AACN does a wonderful job with the Essentials documents, which basically serve as guides for curricula for nursing schools. I’m so proud to be working with them to help revise the essentials, publish this report, and then work on developing a five-module course with a company called Unbound Medicine. I produced a disaster nursing app with them back in 2015, and now I’m working with them to produce course content that schools can use to add to their existing courses or add as a standalone certificate to help provide this important information for schools that may not have the resources or the faculty who know how to develop this content or teach it—we’re hoping to do a great service for some of these schools.
DN: You mentioned the uncertainty of nursing in a pandemic. Where are we now?
TGV: We’re not through this. You’ve got California, Texas, Florida, and Arizona on the brink of being completely overwhelmed, and the Carolinas are right behind them. So the next month is going to be very ugly in the United States.
DN: What can individual nurses do to increase their readiness for pandemics?
TGV: They can pursue ongoing education and training as it relates to pandemic preparedness and response. Some of the professional nursing organizations are now offering short courses. I developed one with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), and we have more that will be coming out.
The George Washington University School of Nursing has just received the largest philanthropic gift in the school’s history. Through the William and Joanne Conway Transitioning Warriors Nursing Scholars Initiative, $2.5 million in financial aid is being made available to help eligible military veterans working toward a BSN degree. The gift is expected to support more than 65 students over the next five years.
Donors William Conway, co-founder of The Carlyle Group, and his wife Joanne are long-time supporters of nursing education. School of Nursing Dean Pamela Jeffries commented, “The Conways’ commitment to our military veterans is unwavering, and so is ours at the GW School of Nursing. As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, it’s gifts like these that enable us to grow our veteran student population and provide the resources they need to succeed.”
The aid program will be welcomed by veterans. Despite the assistance available through military benefits such as the GI Bill, many vets still find it a challenge to support themselves and their families when they re-enter the civilian world and attempt to pursue a degree. The Conways are happy to offer a helping hand. “The Transitioning Warriors Nursing Scholars Initiative is designed to reward the brave men and women of our armed forces who seek to continue their service to our country as civilian nurses,” Mr. Conway stated. GWU President Thomas LeBlanc responded, “We are grateful to the Conways for enabling this investment when our nation’s nursing workforce and veterans need it most.”
Founded 10 years ago, the George Washington University School of Nursing is currently the sixth ranked school in the US News and World Report assessment of online graduate nursing programs. The gift was presented in May, while the school was celebrating its 10th anniversary.
For further details on this story, visit GWToday at the University website.
On May 29, Nursing Dean Marilyn Wideman retired from Purdue University Global after accumulating a legacy of notable achievements during her tenure.
Wideman’s accomplishments while leading the online university range from rewriting the Master of Science in Nursing program—which gained the program a 10-year full accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education—to executing a series of plans that have elevated Purdue Global NCLEX scores to a level that is consistently above the national average.
Marilyn Wideman has retired as Dean of the Purdue University Global School of Nursing
Dean Wideman also played a key role in a number of other innovations at the Purdue Global School of Nursing. Her efforts led to the introduction of a number of new programs, including:
A two-step Bachelor of Science in Nursing that permits students to complete their BSN degree in less time as they take bachelor-level courses as part of the associate nursing degree program.
The joint Master of Science in Nursing and Master of Business Administration in collaboration with Jeffrey Buck, dean of the School of Business and IT
An MSN nurse practitioner specialty in adult-gerontology acute care
Purdue Global Chancellor Frank Dooley lauded Wideman’s contributions, saying, “The work she accomplished will continue to benefit our students, which is ever so important during these challenging times, especially for health care professionals. Marilyn has laid the important groundwork for us to forge ahead as educators.”
On June 1, Purdue Global inducted Melissa Burdi, associate dean of undergraduate programs, as the new Dean of the School of Nursing. Burdi paid tribute to her predecessor, noting, “It is an honor and a privilege to carry on the work that Marilyn has started… Marilyn was a transformational leader who had a gift to be able to relate to both our team and students. She pushed us to be the best versions of ourselves.”
With regard to the future, Dean Burdi commented, “We have embraced the opportunity to address a significant amount of positive disruption as a result of recent pandemic events and will continue to respond to this evolving landscape with agility and speed. Creating an exceptional experience and positioning our students for success in meeting their goals remains our top priority.”
For further details on this story, visit the Purdue University newsroom.