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Dean's Blog | September 23, 2020

Clinical placements are never easy. But this year…!

Judith Karshmer

Health care, you would think, would be the place where the old adage about never letting a serious crisis go to waste would never apply. It’s an appalling thought on its face.

But here we are, six months into the worst public health crisis of our generation, and we are seizing opportunities wherever we can in nursing education. We must.

On the critical issue of clinical placements for prelicensure and DNP students, for example, operating within the world in which COVID-19 forces us to live, created a crisis on top of a crisis. Long before COVID-19, the serious lack of clinical placements was a huge issue in nursing education and the wave of illness across the country exacerbated this!

Students working on a mannikin

In Arizona, like elsewhere across the nation, our clinical partners were stretched extremely thin and as a result they were unable to accommodate our students. At the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, we spent the summer contacting partners to determine their needs and to prepare for COVID-19 changes to operations at clinic and hospital settings. We found opportunities to develop new modules of care and to create other unique opportunities, in particular around specialty education and training. For example, our partners identified a need for perioperative nurses and we developed modules for students with interest in that specialty area. The college also responded to the need expressed by two hospital systems for nurses educated and trained in telemetry. Our focus expanded from our own students to the educational needs of nurse colleagues working on the front lines.

COVID-19 itself has provided experiences for students. As ASU provided testing for organizations and industries in the Phoenix metropolitan area, our students were able to supply an able and willing workforce. Clinical opportunities of this sort are providing this generation of nursing students the, hopefully, once-in-a-lifetime experience of advancing public health initiatives in the midst of a global pandemic.

On campus, Edson College continues to put its Grace Center for Innovation in Nursing Education to relevant, adaptive use in the time of COVID-19. Innovative simulations, augmented and virtual reality are providing foundational skills and critical thinking opportunities that will allow these students to advance as they return to caring for patients across a range of settings. Despite the challenges of this public health crisis, we have more students actively engaged in experiential learning than ever before!

The chronic clinical placement shortage will continue after the pandemic is behind us, but through this experience, we will have learned a great deal about new and dynamic approaches to create robust learning experiences. We shouldn’t miss the opportunity to respond innovatively and urgently with new strategies and models to meet these challenges in nursing education.