By JULIE B. MAGLIO
Businesses and institutions across the world have had to quickly adapt to challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and Pasco Hernando State College is no different.
Programs that were developed to complete through hands on work have proven very difficult to shift to an online learning environment. Third semester nursing students have been particularly affected as they are unable to complete clinical work required for graduation during the COVID-19 crisis. Welding students are also experiencing a similar situation since the program requires hands on training.
PHSC’s welding program has been put on hold entirely since it is very much a skill that must be learned in person and it can’t be recreated in a simulated situation. Students who had completed the required courses prior to the COVID-19 crisis will be able to graduate in May and receive their welding certification. PHSC Associate Dean of Marketing, Communications & Media Relations, Melanie Snow Waxler, explained that there is a plan for the welding program once clearance has been granted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Usually the program consists of two evening sessions. Part of the plan going forward after clearance, the college would add a third session in the morning to help students get the training they need.
With the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 crisis, some PHSC nursing students worried that they may not be able to graduate on time.
A petition was created by Johnathan McKeen-Chaff in order to push the college to devise solutions that would enable third semester nursing students to graduate on time. Solutions suggested include virtual clinical experience or completion of in person clinicals over the summer.
While Johnathan McKeen-Chaff has organized the petition, he is not currently a PHSC student, clarified Waxler.
“This has definitely been a hot button issue,” said Waxler. “The nursing program has been one of our most challenging programs. The bottom line is that the health and safety of the students come first.” She said that they’ve been working on a plan for students to fulfill their graduation requirements in a timely manner for quite awhile. “We would never want our students to feel that they can’t finish their degree.”
Waxler provided further clarification in an email, “Third semester students, as discussed in the petition, are and have been scheduled to graduate on time. Traditional RN students do not attend nursing classes in the summer, but rather are sequenced in the fall and spring terms.”
It is evident though, the nursing program has had roadblocks throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
Dean of Nursing Billie Gabbard wrote to third semester nursing students, “Our clinical partners were unable to fully support students this semester. The entire health care system of the United States basically shut down and the limited Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that was diverted rightfully to the frontline workers, made PPE unavailable for students. The decision to close the College was necessary to protect students, faculty, and staff as the emerging information changed rapidly. There are reported deaths not only of frontline health care providers, but of nursing students as well. To put students in an unsafe environment with no PPE would not have been the right decision to make. The importance of providing students with the quality education that is deserved was a basis for decision making.”
In a department-wide statement, Gabbard explained, “Simulation provides a great supplement to learning; however, it is not the solution for all learning needs. The most recent communication from the board of nursing indicates that virtual simulation is to end on May 31st, unless another extension is granted, potentially, leaving students in a situation where full completion could not be met.”
Nursing program requirements have not changed, explained the school in a statement to Hernando Sun. “However, the delivery method of theory was moved from classroom to online. To support completion of the May graduate group, clinical assignments were modified by faculty to ensure students were able to complete the learning objectives of the course.“
In response to the question of whether simulation training qualifies as clinical training, the school states, “The BON [Board of Nursing] allows for up to 50% simulation as a school deems appropriate. Effective simulations require planning, attention to learning outcomes, and need to support student learning. On campus simulations are completed in all nursing courses; however, the simulation is used to supplement hands on learning, not replace it. The academic rigor and educational quality of the programs make our graduates a sought after employee.”
Gabbard is expected to share the details of a graduation schedule with the third semester nursing students in the coming weeks.
The department statement reads, “The fall 2020 plan has been modified to assist each student to meet his or her educational goals of students graduating in December 2020. The details of that plan are still in production and will be communicated to students so that they may plan their schedule accordingly.”
“Going from an in person college to an online institution overnight has come with its challenges and that's safe to say for any college or institution,” said Waxler.
Currently, 119 nursing students are set to graduate in May 2020, while 96 are scheduled to graduate in December 2020.