Baylor nursing students are eager to make a difference.
By Larry Little
Florence Nightingale, recognized worldwide as the founder of modern nursing, was born May 12, 1820. In honor of the 200th anniversary of Nightingale’s birth, the World Health Organization deemed 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. Prophetic, to say the least.
While the world has wrestled with COVID-19 this year, the limelight has turned to shine brightly on nurses and the nursing profession. At the same time, those preparing to enter the nursing field were forced to shift gears.
Louise Herrington School of Nursing (LHSON) students were not immune to the academic disruption felt by fellow Baylor students. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, all curriculum was moved online.
Dr. Karen Cotter, associate dean for pre-licensure programs and clinical assistant professor, said it was a challenge to get everything launched but that students have done well in terms of outcomes.
“They really have performed about the same, maybe even a little better,” Cotter said. “It was a whole new way of learning. At first, some students struggled finding a place that seemed like school.”
Cotter praised the faculty for implementing recorded lectures in addition to synchronous lectures during originally scheduled class times. She also said a move to online instruction to some extent was inevitable apart from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve been at a turning point in nursing education because of changes in technology and changes in how we’re preparing students for their changing profession,” she said. “This gave us a big nudge toward those changes. We’re slowly turning that corner toward advancing our delivery of nursing education.”
When face-to-face instruction returns, Cotter believes faculty will continue implementing online learning activities as a way to reinforce the information students receive in the classroom.
The transition to completely online instruction was well-timed for the nursing school, which teaches classes in seven-week blocks. A new block started with the new format and no midstream change was necessary.
All LHSON graduate courses were already online and no changes were needed. However, clinical instruction was interrupted as students were no longer allowed in the facilities.
“We launched simulation activities — virtual clinicals,” Cotter said. “I see us using those (moving forward) as alternative activities for students to reinforce their clinical experiences and education.”
Dr. Shelley F. Conroy, tenured professor and LHSON dean, said the disruption to clinicals afforded graduate and nurse practitioner students the opportunity to gain experience using telehealth.
“They got clinical experience in an area where they were not getting it before,” Conroy said. “In healthcare right now, everything has shifted to telehealth except for emergencies. That was really good experience for them.”
LHSON Director of Student Services Monica Mullins said students at all levels have expressed eagerness, excitement and increased focus.
“I’ve talked to prospective and current students about how they’re feeling about their chosen profession in light of everything that’s happening right now,” Mullins said. “Every once in a while, one of them will say, ‘I’m nervous about that or scared about that.’ But they immediately launch into how proud they are of what they’ve chosen, especially students getting ready to join us this fall in Dallas, coming from the Waco campus.”
Mullins spoke with one freshman pre-nursing student who likened herself to someone eager to enlist for service during World War II. “This is my signing up to make a difference in the world where I can,” the student said.
“There’s this eagerness,” Mullins said. “She knows she doesn’t have the skills or knowledge yet, but she’s eager to be on the front lines. That’s not an uncommon response that I’m getting from our students.”
Nightingale would be proud.