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Nursing students return to campus for selective lab experiences

A small number of Edson College nursing students are once again taking classes in person on ASU’s Downtown campus.

Nearly an hour before labs began, students started lining up outside the Grace Center for Innovation in Nursing Education, anxiously awaiting their first in-person courses in almost four months.

“It’s honestly really exciting just to see other humans again and to be able to interact with them. But it is a little strange being on campus again and the whole social distancing and wearing masks is a bit different,” Erica Medina said.

Medina is part of a small number of Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation summer session students who chose to come back to campus for selective lab experiences. 

Returning to in-person courses in the era of COVID-19 is intentionally careful. Every precaution is being taken to ensure a safe and healthy learning space for these future nurses and the Edson College faculty and staff facilitating.

In compliance with CDC guidelines and the university’s own protocols, everyone on campus is required to wear a face covering, practice physical distancing and monitor their own health.

“In the morning we do a temperature check and if we have an elevated temperature, we don’t come in and if we have any symptoms we don’t come in. So we’re just doing as much as we can to prevent people from getting sick,” said student Brian De Mouy. 

Some additional changes include:

  • New signage installed throughout the Grace Center reminding everyone to follow the guidelines.
  • Cleaning supplies readily available to sanitize rooms and equipment in between assignments. 
  • Smaller groups to accommodate physical distancing.
  • Designated flow of traffic throughout the building to minimize congregating. 

Even as the environment around them has changed, Margaret Calacci, the director for the Grace Center says the coursework and the skills they’re working on to become competent health care providers have not.

“Our curriculum is made up of evidence-based principles and good nursing care in the areas of critical thinking, communication and safety. Students still have the same opportunity to put their hands on, explore and develop those competencies with their patients," said Calacci.

Practicing those hands-on skills, like starting IVs and placing catheters is one of the things both De Mouy and Medina have missed the most as a result of remote learning.  Well, that and the real-time feedback from professors and classmates.

“I learn better in person, so being able to talk to my peers, interact with them and engage is really what’s exciting,” Medina said.

While some students are on campus, others are participating in the same labs and simulations via Zoom through ASU Sync, the university’s new synchronous, technology-enhanced and fully interactive remote learning option. 

Each remote-learning student is paired up with one of their classmates who is there in-person and they work through the various assignments together. There’s also faculty online to help round out this blended instruction.

“The beauty of ASU Sync is that we can have simultaneous learning so whether you’re on a zoom call or in-person you get those same opportunities,” said Calacci.

For Edson College, this summer session provides a preview of what the fall semester may look like and an opportunity to continue to adapt and pivot as needed.

Edson College nursing students physical distance while getting instructions before labs

For the students preparing to graduate, it’s a peek into their not so distant future as they prepare to join the health care frontlines bringing much-needed reinforcement.

“It is a little scary, admittedly, I think it’s definitely a time though when I feel needed. As we enter the medical field as nurses during the course of a pandemic it’s just that extra responsibility we get as providers,” De Mouy said.

Their professors have incredible confidence in the students’ abilities as future providers, not only because of the top-notch education they’re getting but because of the intangibles they’ve developed along the way.

“I believe these students will be the most resilient as they go out into practice, they have overcome obstacles and challenges and they have remained calm and flexible and dedicated to their profession. I couldn’t be more proud,” said Calacci.