March 10, 2020: Letter on COVID-19 to UMSON Faculty and Staff from Jane M. Kirschling, Dean

Dear UMSON Faculty and Staff,

With the Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) now in Maryland, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) are taking additional measures to ensure the safety of our community as well as those who are under our care.

As we continue to navigate this public health emergency, I want to bring you up to date on recent developments. I am also sending an advisory to our students and have attached a copy of this for you.

Activation of the School of Nursing’s “Continuity of Operations Plan related to COVID-19”

On Wednesday, March 11, we are implementing the School of Nursing’s “Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP), Appendix C” which is specifically related to COVID-19 (see attachment and this link). An addition to our overall Continuity of Operations Plan, this appendix was developed in conjunction with UMSON’s Governance Council and Academic and Student Affairs Council. It provides detailed guidance on tasks and responsibilities and will guide us in ensuring we continue to successfully deliver our academic program and prioritize that students who are scheduled to graduate meet their degree requirements.

Based on guidance from the University, effective Monday, March 23, we will institute the following changes:

  1. No classroom-based classes will meet in person. Section instructors and/or course coordinators will communicate with students about alternative delivery for the course.
    Suspension of face-to-face classroom delivery will remain in effect until further notice from UMB.
  2. Examinations will be delivered through Examsoft or other virtual methods. Instructors will coordinate with students regarding how exams will be administered. We will provide services for students who have testing accommodations under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
    • Students with ADA accommodations using assistive technology in the classroom will be able to use that technology remotely.
    • Students and their note takers will be able to exchange notes through the current Office of Disability Services portal.
    • Students with accommodations for extended time on tests and quizzes will take tests remotely.
    • The Office of Learning Technologies is developing a system to distribute exams to students with accommodations for a paper-formatted test and have completed exams uploaded into Blackboard.
  3. Students will continue to participate in in-person simulations and labs as these are small group settings and the laboratory facilities allow for appropriate hand hygiene.
  4. Students in clinical rotations or practicum experiences will continue with the understanding that the clinical site may limit student participation in selected experiences or may notify the student or UMSON that the clinical placement needs to be discontinued. Per UMB guidance (https://www.umaryland.edu/president/letters-to-the-umb-community/umb-clinical-guidance.php), UMSON students will not provide care to persons who are COVID-19 rule-out or COVID-19 confirmed. As always, please reinforce with students the need to be mindful of the confidentiality of HIPAA-protected patient information and to avoid sharing events from their clinical settings through email or social media.
  5. Students conducting research as part of their studies or research assistantships will follow UMSON’s Office of Research and Scholarship-issued guidelines available through this link. UMSON students will not engage research participants who are COVID-19 rule-out or COVID-19 confirmed.

The Academic Dean for each program, as well as the Department Chairs and Vice Chairs, will work with Course Directors to suspend the face-to-face classroom delivery and put into place alternative pedagogical approaches.

The Course Director/Course Master/Clinical Coordinator/faculty of record will determine alternative plans and the Course Director will communicate course-specific changes to students enrolled in the course. Blackboard will be used as the primary method for course-specific communication with students. Further guidance is provided in Appendix C.

Support from UMSON Information Technologies on Teaching Remotely and Creating Content

UMSON’s Office of Information and Learning Technology will be posting information on the UMSON Operations COVID-19 website for faculty on teaching remotely and creating content. IT staff are available to support faculty in developing alternative pedagogical approaches.

In addition, IT staff will be available to assure that you have the necessary equipment and access for working remotely and providing alternatives to face-to-face instruction.

Guidance Issued to Clinical Partners Regarding Students’ Clinical, Field Placement, and Internship Experiences

Ann Mech, Director of Legal Affairs, has provided written guidance to UMSON’s Clinical Partners and advised them that students in any of the School’s programs should not be allowed to participate in, or volunteer for, the care of known or suspected COVID-19 patients. A full list of student restrictions can be accessed through this link.

Preventing Spread of COVID-19 in Research and Scholarship

The School of Nursing’s Office of Research and Scholarship has issued guidance for UMSON faculty researchers, students/trainees, and staff participating in:

  • UMB/University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC)/University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) research
  • non-UMB/UMMC/UMMS research
  • non-human subjects research.

This detailed guidance is available through this link. Please note, it does not pertain to chart reviews or studies/projects that are no longer engaging with participants in person (e.g., follow-up or phone call/email only).

Guidance on International and Domestic Travel by UMB Students, Faculty, and Staff

The University has instituted guidelines for travel to ensure the safety of students, faculty, and staff, as well as the safety of our community when travelers return. This guidance is changing rapidly as international and domestic situations evolve. Please monitor the UMB Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) website for the most up-to-date information. The link is also found in the banner at the top of the UMSON website.

At present, UMSON has suspended approval of additional travel until we have further guidance from UMB. Accordingly, we have advised all supervisors that employees should not register for any conferences or book any future travel until we receive further clarification.

In addition, for those who have already been approved to travel, the dean’s office is notifying the individual (whether student, faculty, or staff) of next steps at least two weeks in advance of the planned travel, in light of the evolving nature of COVID-19 in the U.S. and worldwide. I have already reached out to those who are traveling within the next two weeks and asked them to consider whether to travel as planned and I will continue to closely monitor and advise on all instances of previously approved travel. Our Office of Administrative Services is investigating processes for potential refunds of pre-paid travel and/or conferences fees.

Guidance on Major Meetings, Events, and Gatherings

In keeping with the University’s and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on maintaining adequate social distance to reduce person-to-person spread of infection, we are reviewing all major meetings and gatherings scheduled to take place at the School of Nursing during the next several weeks. Just as national meetings and conferences are now being canceled, we will be canceling large gatherings or moving them to a virtual environment. We will continue to look ahead in intervals of several weeks and determine whether additional cancellations are required.

Support for Students, Faculty, and Staff

As a community, we want to be sure that all feel welcome and safe during their educational and workplace pursuits. We want to be careful not to make assumptions about whether or not someone is ill with COVID-19 based on their race/ethnicity, symptoms, where they have traveled, or with whom they have been in contact.  Please see the guidance here related to being mindful of how an outbreak such as COVID-19 can impact members of our community.

Concluding Thoughts

I want to thank each one of you for your dedication and hard work as we navigate such a rapidly changing situation. As we go forward in this time of uncertainty, it is especially important that we continue to serve our students and model the way as advisors and guides for them. And, that we support each other in fulfilling our responsibilities despite inconveniences and sometimes even our own fears. In order for us to do this effectively, I will continue to hold daily meetings of the Academic Deans, Department Chairs, and Associate and Assistant Deans, and we will provide you with the latest information through our UMSON webpage presence at www.nursing.umaryland.edu/covid19 and through the UMB General Information link at www.umaryland.edu/coronavirus. We will strive to be forthright and transparent.

I would ask each of you to please check the UMSON and UMB websites twice a day for new information. I would encourage you to share your questions or concerns with your respective Academic Dean or Chair, with our Human Resources department, with your supervisor, or with me. I know the inherent strength of our UMSON community and am certain that we will be able to lead wisely in these complex times, remaining true to our mission and purpose as we have for more than 130 years.

Thank you for all that you do and will continue to do in the days ahead. I am truly grateful for your efforts.

Sincerely,    

Jane Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dean and Professor