COVID-19 has forced many fields to adapt to an environment where social gatherings must take place over a long-distance, and MCC’s Nursing Program has been no exception. Before the pandemic, students were face-to-face on both the campuses and clinics. The program had also begun to implement new features that would become useful later on. “We had already started adding simulations because the patient population in Muskegon doesn’t always give us the type of patients that we need, and most pediatric patients will go to Grand Rapids,” explained Chris Patterson, MSN, RN, CNE, and Nursing Director at MCC.
Despite the circumstances, the nursing program had managed to successfully translate itself to long-distance learning. “We had a virtual clinical experience for the students and the instructors did an amazing job of moving everything online…” stated Patterson. “The instructors would create scenarios regarding the types of patients we wanted them to see, and then they would develop critical thinking questions.”
Later, in the summer of 2020, nursing students began to inch their way back toward in-person meetings. With permission from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, nursing students were allowed on campus. With mask mandates and social distancing guidelines, a maximum of six nursing students could be together. The program’s faculty also began to allow its students back into the clinics. “The hospital never locked us out,” Patterson clarified. “We were allowed in, but the faculty chose not to let them in because not enough was really known about the virus.” However, students were restricted from entering nursing homes due to the older residents having weaker immune systems. This serves as a reminder that while the situation is currently improving, it is not the time for frivolity.
It goes without saying that this pandemic will leave a lasting effect on nursing students. Patterson goes explained how the situation benefits medical students in the long run. “It’s been an eye-opening, very educational experience for all of us who have never lived through anything like this. The silver lining is that the students are getting an amazing experience being able to observe this in the healthcare settings.” Only time will tell how nursing will function in the future, but it is useless and unlikely for it to return to “normal”. Instead, nursing will most likely embrace its evolution as technology makes it possible to do what was unprecedented. Patterson talked about what the program could face in the future. “I think we may offer more of our program online… instead of face-to-face. We may rely on technology a little bit more.”
These changes coupled with the experience gained by the nursing students will be very handy in the long run; there may be future pandemics. “It’s been good for students to learn about what happens during the pandemic,” Patterson stated. “In my personal opinion, we’ll have another one; and we’ll be prepared because we know what can happen.”