JOHNSON CITY – When the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced classes at East Tennessee State University to move to an online format last spring, the ETSU College of Nursing faculty had to come up with creative solutions so that students could practice the skills that they usually did in a laboratory setting.
“In those first months of the pandemic, we had to redesign our lab curriculum, making up things that that students could do at home” said Dr. Melessia Webb, associate dean of Undergraduate Programs in the College of Nursing. “For example, we used a pasta noodle and straw to demonstrate tracheostomy care. We were just trying to do whatever we could so that our students could get the concept down and to bring together for them the cognitive and the application.”
This year, the College of Nursing has added a new tool that will significantly improve students’ abilities to hone their skills – both at home and in the classroom.
To address the growing need for remote and socially distanced learning, the College of Nursing ordered 1,200 portable simulation kits that allow students to practice 16 different skills, such as trach care, wound care, injections, IV insertion and nasogastric tube insertion.
“This product, made by SimuMed LLC, is a skills task trainer that allows students to practice anytime, anywhere,” Webb said. “They don’t have to be in the lab setting; they can take their kits home with them.”
All ETSU undergraduate nursing students who are enrolled in a curriculum with a lab component at the College of Nursing’s 13 sites across the state are receiving one of the kits this spring, as did the faculty members who teach the courses. The College of Nursing used course fees to pay for the kits.
The kits come with a stand and various parts that allow users to practice and demonstrate their skills. All of the parts are dishwasher safe, so that users can clean and sanitize them at home – especially after practicing skills where liquids are used.
While the College of Nursing’s main priority was finding an effective and convenient alternative to in-person lab time, there are many other benefits of the skills trainer, even in the classroom, Webb explained.
“When students are permitted to be in a classroom setting together, instead of waiting their turn in line to use one of our simulation manikins, now they each have their own skills trainer that they can bring with them and use at their individual desks,” Webb said. “This is more sanitary because they are using their own kits and keep socially distanced from their classmates, and they have more opportunities for repetition because they have their own kit that they can use as much as they need.”
Because of the advantages of the portable simulation kits, Webb said the College of Nursing will continue to use them beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and distribute them to future nursing students.
“I feel like this SimuMed kit is going to help us so much in being able to practice in real-world time, and that has been something we haven’t really been able to do with COVID-19,” said Nicollette Legac, a second-semester nursing student who received her kit this month. “This is going to allow us to practice all of these skills, and I feel so fortunate that we get to receive these kits.”
To learn more about the ETSU College of Nursing, visit www.etus.edu/nursing.