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Nursing Department faculty and students grateful to be back on campus

Offering in-person, hands-on learning keeps students on track to enter the health care workforce during the pandemic.

By Doug McPherson

October 22, 2020

Two nursing students in class and wearing personal protective equipment.Metropolitan State University of Denver Department of Nursing professors were some of the first employees to return to in-person instruction following the COVID-19 campus closure. In the spring and summer, a limited number of instructors helped ensure that upper-level nursing students remained on track for graduation and prepared to enter the workforce. This semester, in-person instruction has continued, and faculty report they are happy to be back.

“The best part has been getting back in a routine and getting to see the students face-to-face again,” said Mary Tucker, simulation coordinator. “Teaching in person has allowed me to see their professional growth, resiliency and desire to work hard. Plus, MSU Denver (has) a beautiful campus, and I missed being here.”

Terry Buxton, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Nursing, echoes Tucker’s joy in returning to campus and adds that students are “incredibly grateful” to be back in class as well.

“They are still living with a stressful situation, and coming to campus actually gives them some time to decompress,” Buxton said.

When the campus initially closed in March, the Department of Nursing adapted quickly, bringing some students back to the classroom at the end of April to get necessary hands-on practice in the nursing-skills lab and the simulation lab.

“Since clinical-practicum placements were either canceled or deleted, it’s hard for students to transfer knowledge into skills without direct-practice opportunities,” said Buxton.

Buxton adds that an unexpected positive in returning to campus is the “greater camaraderie” and sharing of quarantine “war stories.”

Nancy Schoelkopf, coordinator for the nursing-skills lab, says the lab space “looks different, but it is working out well.”

“Some nursing schools decided to delay graduation and/or go all virtual,” Schoelkopf said. “Nursing skills are hard to do virtually, and they need the hands on in order to master the skill before seeing actual patients. Some of the nursing courses require lab time, and we needed to make sure they were able to finish and move forward with their degree without compromising their health. We definitely need exceptional nurses now more than ever.”

Tucker, who plans to teach in-person classes again in the spring, advises fellow returning professors to be transparent with students about their expectations related to COVID-19 rules and to thank them for staying positive.

“(Nursing) students are unique as they progress together for two years,” she said. “They have missed the camaraderie, collaboration and relationship-building that happens more fluidly when they’re together on campus. They’re pleased to be back with their friends and not to just see each other virtually.”

Buxton also offers some practical advice to fellow professors returning to teach in person: “It’s very important to remind yourself as well as your students to maintain social distancing of 6 feet or more,” she said. “This practice is not well-ingrained into our daily behaviors, so constant reminders are needed so students don’t bunch up – especially when entering or leaving a classroom or building.”

Additionally, Buxton recommends carrying a pocket-size hand sanitizer to use during class and while moving around the campus when bathrooms aren’t nearby or available. “Especially use the sanitizer after you touch or adjust your mask,” Buxton said.

The Nursing Department will offer more of its currently online synchronous courses on campus in the spring semester. These courses include obstetrics, nursing foundations, medical-surgical II, mental health and senior experience.

Topics: Health, Nursing, Safety

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