In the simulation lab course, Population Health in the Community, nursing students at Curry College have the opportunity to practice patient care with a real-life person; last spring, it was a patient with a diabetic foot ulcer. “During the simulation, live standardized patients are used which has always been a favorite for students,” says School of Nursing Faculty Member Julianne Walsh.
Yet, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced all spring courses online, Walsh had to think quickly and creatively to implement an online alternative to the clinical learning scenario. She replaced the preexisting home visit by developing a unique virtual simulation telehealth experience. Working in groups yet remotely, students took turns interviewing the patient in his home through Zoom video conferencing and other digital tools.
“The assignment’s objective was to introduce students to the practice of telehealth medicine and utilization of real-time audio-video communication to connect the students virtually with their patient,” she says. “It presented a unique opportunity to teach students how telehealth medicine supports an integrated systems approach to health care that facilitates health promotion and wellness, disease prevention and/or management, and higher patient quality care.”
The creative adaption will now be featured as a “Teaching Tip” article in the November issue of Nurse Educator, a scholarly peer-reviewed journal that provides practical information and research to faculty and administrators in schools of nursing. As many nursing programs continue to offer some coursework online, educators are tasked with identifying new teaching strategies that continue to test for clinical competency and skill development in a remote setting.
“As technology and distance learning continue to play a role in successfully delivering education, nursing faculty can contribute to curricular reform with newly developed evidence-based pedagogies that use teaching models to actively engage the student, such as a telehealth simulation scenario,” says Walsh.
After seeing students improve their skills in therapeutic communication and telehealth management, Walsh has plans to continue the virtual simulation exercise moving forward. School of Nursing student Mina Etedali ’21 has completed several simulation labs as part of her coursework and says the spring course with Professor Walsh will be hugely valuable as she looks forward to beginning her career at a time when telehealth proves to be increasingly crucial due to mandated self-quarantine or stay-at-home orders for patients.
“It taught me a different type of nursing,” says Etedali. “My training has always been in the classroom, a simulation lab, or the hospital, but I’ve never had the experience of talking over the phone or video chatting with a patient. I found that it can be a lot easier when you are physically in front of the person. Conducting patient care in a telehealth format taught me how critical our communication skills can be.”
The Teaching Tip article, “Switching Strategies: Using Telehealth as an Innovative Virtual Simulation Teaching Method,” was selected to be published online ahead of the November issue and Walsh will also be featured in an upcoming Nurse Educator podcast speaking on the course and its success.