Today’s nursing students, when they graduate from their studies and enter the health-care system, will have already risen to COVID-19 challenges.
The outset of the pandemic came in the middle of last year’s spring semester, with nursing students in the midst of class and clinical practice. Colleen Price, chairperson of VIU’s bachelor of science in nursing program, said faculty had to scramble to make adjustments to how students consolidate “all of their learning and all of their skills” in a practice setting.
Last summer, first- and second-year students were not able to go into practice because there hadn’t been enough planning time.
“A decision was made by the province that … third-year and fourth-year students would be able to go into the practice setting if appropriate [protective equipment] was available,” said Price. “We had to reduce numbers in clinical practice in the hospitals. We couldn’t go into long-term care because of the outbreaks and because of the risk, so we had to make some major transitions over last summer, where some of our face-to-face practice sessions turned into online sessions.”
Going into last fall, with safety guidelines in place, hospitals were able to accommodate students a little better, said Price, and all theory courses went online in a blended format. She estimates face-to-face skills training in the VIU learning centre was reduced 50 per cent, as the department was not able to have that many students in one place at one time.
The university provided kits for students to take home to practise with.
“It would just depend on what year they were in: [intravenous] bags and IV tubing, dressing trays to practise how to do sterile dressing, any of the equipment other than sharps … our nursing faculty would do video conferencing with them and review skills with them,” Price said.
But while learning was affected, the pandemic saw demand for graduating nursing students.
“No issues about employment for our nurses at all,” said Price. “Island Health really was very supportive, in a pandemic and under these circumstances, supporting the students.”
Price has nothing but praise for students as they are learning and going into health-care workplaces in a pandemic.
“I’m so, so, so impressed with the students,” said Price. “They may have been anxious, but their questions were very thoughtful. They would check in, making sure that they had the correct understanding of various policies and guidelines. They knew that there were risks going into practice and yet they were dedicated to finishing the program.”