In March of this year, every program offered at Ashland Community and Technical College (ACTC) transitioned to remote instruction in response to the pandemic.
One program that saw tremendous success during that transition was the Practical Nursing (PN) department.
Terri Ratliff (program coordinator) and the PN faculty moved every component of their program online, from skills assessments to lab hours to clinicals.
Full-time PN faculty include: Terri Ratliff, Deena Howerton, Melissa Green, Susan Wallace-Vernatter and Brigitte Carroll. Harold Bruce, Tamara Cantrell and April Melvin were adjunct faculty with the department during this spring semester.
“In March, everything was scary, because it was all brand new for everyone. The students were so appreciative though, because we didn’t miss a beat,” says Carroll. “Our students did it and did it well.”
PN faculty spent 16 hours each week with their students online to complete their lab hours and Wallace-Vernatter moved all skills assessments to a virtual platform. She recorded videos demonstrating specific skills, and students recorded videos indicating mastery of those skills.
“Nursing is a team profession, so we run our program based on that idea. Our philosophy is ‘one team, one goal’,” Ratliff added.
When the department transitioned to remote instruction, students continued to use ClinPrep, a simulated electronic medical record system used by students to document patient care. PN students had been using it prior to the spring semester to record their charting during clinicals, but continued to do so using “simulated” patients during the spring semester.
Due to the unique way PN faculty had used ClinPrep, the owners of the company approached the PN faculty and asked them to beta test SimPrep, a new software that incorporates the features of ClinPrep with providing nursing care in simulated cases, as well.
SimPrep is an academic EHR (electronic health record) training system designed to help students learn documentation skills, medication administration, and data collection skills in both the simulation lab and classroom setting, says Daniel Tucker, CIO of ClinPrep/SimPrep.
“SimPrep mimics the functionality of a hospital EHR so students get the training they need to hit the ground running when they graduate,” he said.
ACTC is the only institution in the state that is testing this program.
“ClinPrep has been amazing for our students, because it is so user friendly compared to some of the other products we have used,” said Howerton.
Green creates patients with a detailed medical history and unique scenarios in which students provide patient-centered nursing care using simulation. Students work in groups to provide care to the patient.
Ratliff nominated Green for the Kentucky League for Nursing Jo Ann Maurer Wever Award for Excellence in Nursing Education earlier this year for her work on the simulations.
Green was this year’s recipient of that award.
She worked to ensure that curriculum and skills that have been covered in class are integrated in the simulation experience so that students can apply the content they have learned in a practical environment.
“Our simulations are tailor-made to follow along with the topics that are being taught in that unit. Each simulation focused on a different body system based around what was going on in lecture,” said Green.
“I kind of looked at it as writing a play in three acts, because I needed to cover sixteen hours of what we would have done during clinicals,” she added. ““The faculty jumped in and we all made it happen together. We put our heads together and brainstormed every simulation.”
Green says part one is the introduction to the patient, part two is providing care for the patient’s condition, and part three is the evaluation of patient care.
“The way the Ashland Nursing Team was able to quickly and effectively transition their learning 100 percent online is exemplary and should be used as a model for other nursing programs. The Ashland Nursing Faculty was instrumental in providing ideas and feedback for the SimPrep Simulation Lab software that they have been beta testing for us,” said Tucker.
“From our perspective, the usage of SimPrep and the beta testing process has been stellar. We really appreciate all the support that they have given to our company and the product we are developing,” he added.
PN instructors say they are fully prepared to transition back to remote instruction in the event that the in-person instruction moves to online or students are restricted from visiting clinical sites.
Students are currently participating in clinical hours at varying site. Some are COVID tested every week to be cleared to return to clinical sites the following week.
Even though students have returned to campus for the fall semester, Ratliff says instructors continue to include simulation as a part of their curriculum delivery.
“We truly stand by our philosophy: one team, one goal,” she said. “The students and the faculty all work together to ensure our students’ success.”