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Clinical Placements Adapt to COVID-19 Crisis

April 1, 2020

At the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON), even before the UMB guidelines went into effect, students were already being asked by partner placement sites to stop reporting to their clinical rotations, said Maeve Howett, PhD, APRN, CPNP-PC, IBCLC, CNE, professor and associate dean for baccalaureate education.

“We started with eight students [being turned away from their clinical rotations] and then all of a sudden, it was everyone,” she said. Before long, all nursing students were out of their clinical settings.

UMSON leadership purchased high-fidelity software that simulates patient care in 3-D modeling, providing students with learning experiences similar to virtual reality alternatives, but with no special glasses needed. Similar software programs are used for military, surgical, and submarine training, Howett said. The software, on three different platforms, vSim for Nursing, I-Human Patients, and DocuCare, simulates nurse scenarios using virtual patient encounters. These programs will be used by all students in lieu of clinical instruction until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, Howett said.

“They will be able to meet all the learning objectives,” she said. “It is almost the same amount of hours and the intensity level is high. You are not taking the time to get a towel or bring someone grape juice. We can give a lot of experience in a short amount of time.”

Because UMSON already places a strong emphasis on simulation, with state-of-the-art simulation labs at its Baltimore and Universities at Shady Grove locations, “we are in a better position than a lot of other schools of nursing,” Howett said. “We are ready to roll and we are confident that simulation is a great substitute [for clinical settings]. The data is there that this is a good substitute. We have to do it in very unusual circumstances but it’s OK. We are going to be all right.”

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