Nursing Students Adapt to In-Person Learning

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Dr. Tiffanie Hoffmeyer

Chaminade’s Nursing department has set up plastic curtains around work stations to protect during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite being in a pandemic, Chaminade University Nursing majors are still attending in-person labs and clinical practices as they would before Covid-19 shut down all in-person classes. These labs and clinical practices are required for them and weekly attendance is mandatory, with no online option offered.

“There was this one time before school started when Chaminade offered students to choose whether or not they wanted in-person classes or online classes,” said Kayla Sumaoang, a second-year nursing major. “It seemed great because people had a choice for their safety, but unfortunately for us nursing students, the nursing administration emailed all of us stating that if we chose not to do in-person labs, the course would be considered incomplete and we would have to make it up in the spring, which basically meant if you decide to stay online for labs you will be pushed back and won’t advance with your cohort.”

Sumaoang had to choose between graduating on time or choosing to attend online classes. In response, she chose to mask up, graduate on time, and undergo an in-person lab during this pandemic. She feels grateful to have at least one in-person lab this semester. 

“I do learn better both seeing and doing my skills,” said the Oahu native. “Before school started, I was very nervous that I would have to learn all my skills online and wouldn’t have a chance to know how it feels when you do it in person. My friends and I would always joke about how our generation of nurses would be able to play the game but have no idea how to do it in actual hospitals. I want to know and practice my skills instead of having to wing it and go to the hospitals trying to remember what I saw online in simulations.”

Although there are no online alternatives, Chaminade is taking the necessary precautions to ensure that it is following C.D.C. and local health official guidelines. When driving up to campus, there’s a security checkpoint where daily Covid-19 self-screening readers are being issued, along with many “no-contact” temperature checks displayed all over campus. The Nursing department is providing nursing students with face shields, goggles, and face masks. When in the lab, students are thoroughly inspected to ensure they are following the guidelines, receive a temperature screening, and are monitored through a sign-in/out sheet to easily track their whereabouts and who they may come into contact with.

For Sumaoang and other nursing majors, these in-class labs or clinicals are once a week for anywhere from 6 to 12 hours and have a maximum amount of eight other students attending the lab with one instructor.

“Chaminade’s Nursing programs are governed by national nursing standards, which regulates all nursing students to physically attend nursing skills and simulation labs,” said Dr. Tiffanie Hoffmeyer, CUH’s Simulation Director and Associate Professor of Nursing.

The Nursing students are using virtual simulations to supplement graduation requirement hours, but national regulations prevent over 50% of these clinical hours being from online simulations.

“This makes sense because how would you want a nurse caring for you who has only had computer patient experiences?” Dr. Hoffmeyer said. “There are physical skills and experiences that the students must develop to be safe for practice.”

Nursing students can acquire these physical skills and experiences through clinical learning practices. Clinical learning remains a graduation requirement for nursing students, and during this time hospitals have restricted the number of students allowed in the hospital. With hospital restrictions, college seniors have priority over underclassmen and these underclassmen are educated with patient simulations in labs.

CUH senior Charysse Ueunten is required to attend clinical practices at Queen’s Hospital in Honolulu as a replacement for her nursing lab requirement. Ueunten works at Queen’s on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Although there is no online option for Ueunten, she holds a positive mindset about having to work at a hospital during these times.

“Working with these clinical labs during this pandemic is scary but rewarding,” she said. “I like that I am able to help the nurses during a time where there is a shortage of nurses. I’m happy that I can experience it [the pandemic]; I am learning adaptability and flexibility. It feels like an honor to be able to say that I worked through a pandemic. I can say that I did it. It really is a whole new experience.”

Chaminade’s Nursing program will continue to educate promising nursing students in-person and through virtual simulations during this time.

“As nurses, we are exposed to illness every day,” Dr. Hoffmeyer said. “This is a reality of our profession. Many times, we may not know a patient has an infectious process until after we have interacted with them. As for having the students and clinical instructors on campus, I feel very confident because we are assuming everyone is infected and wear full personal protective equipment at all times.”