Six Georgia State University undergraduate nursing students dress in uniform to start a clinical experience. Under normal circumstances, they would go to a hospital or other medical facility for practical experience, called clinical. But these aren’t normal circumstances thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the students sign on to clinical experience via video conferencing. They participate in this virtual experience that allows them to interact with patients as if the patients lay in a hospital bed.
Like much of education during the pandemic, nursing education has moved online. But how do you replicate what happens in the lab, clinics and hospitals in a safe but realistic virtual world?
Using an application called vSim, the software offers a variety of nursing actions, giving students an individualized learning experience in making clinical decisions and prioritizing care. Before the group simulation, students work through the assigned scenario alone and complete pre- and post-simulation tasks.
“The transition to virtual clinical required a rapid response to a relatively new teaching approach,” said Regena Spratling, associate dean of the Byrdine F. Lewis Nursing and Health Professions and chief academic officer for nursing. “The nursing faculty assessed and implemented a virtual clinical so students could continue patient care that was no longer an option in clinical settings.”
Early in the scenario, the application asks students to perform safety protocols of virtually washing hands and checking the patient’s name on the armband and chart. During this simulation on a young male avatar patient, nursing students gathered information, determined the patient’s primary problem--low blood glucose levels--and implemented nursing actions.
The students observed the simulated client’s symptoms through the software, communicated information to the provider (a faculty member) and obtained doctor’s orders for the nurses to implement. Students then begin physical assessment steps, including checking respirations and breathing, measuring blood pressure, blood oxygen, blood sugar, body temperature and pulse. After determining their patient had low blood sugar, which caused sweating, rapid breathing and general confusion, the students administered glucose via an IV and water by mouth.
Once the students decided their patient was stable, shown by improving symptoms in the simulation software, they hand the patient off to other care providers, closing the scenario. An assessment screen appears to provide feedback, helping students identify strengths or areas of improvement, allowing them to collaborate and assess the what and why surrounding patient- care decisions. Faculty lead the students in debriefing to evaluate student’s knowledge of content and rationale for actions.
“Implementing online clinical with the use of virtual simulation software and other technology allows students to engage in realistic patient scenarios and have time to reflect on their decisions in a judgment-free, safe learning environment,” said Karis Casseus, clinical assistant professor of nursing. “Understanding the ‘why’ when providing client care, helps students improve clinical judgment skills.”
Casseus selects scenarios such as diabetes, common and current, in a professional nursing practice. She has also planned a simulated COVID-19 patient to give the students experience in the pandemic.
Virtual simulation is an example of the technological methods used to teach students in this era of online education. In a different but creative way to demonstrate nursing knowledge and application, students livestream themselves conducting a head-to-toe patient assessment on roommates or family members as patients. Students living alone must be resourceful, using a pet or a stuffed animal as their patients.
The Georgia State School of Nursing offers degrees at the associate level (via Perimeter College), bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, and has graduated more than 6,000 students. Nursing graduates scored a 100 percent pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).