| Washington, DC — Nurses have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, so it stands to reason that nursing students and the nurse educators preparing them to graduate onto the front lines of the health care system would be impacted as well. To better understand these dynamics, the National League for Nursing invited nearly 1,000 deans and directors serving in League-member schools to fill out two surveys that required quantitative and qualitative responses. Data were collected between January 16 through February 8 of this year.
One survey sought to assess how COVID-19 may have impacted the academic experience, including: adopting pandemic safety protocols; changes to curriculum and instruction in classroom and clinical settings; and the mental health of students and faculty. Key findings revealed:
• Wide use of personal protective equipment (PPE) by students and faculty (face shields, gloves, goggles) in classrooms, laboratories and clinics
• Minimal faculty attrition attributed to COVID-19
• Purchase by about half the schools of new simulation equipment, such as Virtual Simulation, Manikin and Pediatric Hal, for use in virtual and small group clinical instruction to compensate for a decrease in clinical placements available in hospitals and other health care settings besieged by COVID-19 cases
• Nearly half of the schools either added or enhanced mental health and social services counseling for students and faculty
One respondent perhaps best summed up the continuing physical and emotional toll of COVID-19: “The pandemic has been by far the most challenging of any part of a career in nursing education. Faculty have been faced with the need to rapidly change their entire method of teaching and develop new resources for the whole academic year.”
The second survey queried deans and directors about the level of participation of students in community-wide vaccination programs and faculty involvement, if any. The League learned that the majority of schools that have mobilized students to administer vaccines were located in rural areas with a third in urban locations. Other key findings included:
• While more than half of the responding schools (55.7 percent) are not participating in community vaccine campaigns, of those that are, about 60 percent of faculty have been available to supervise students administering vaccines
• Nearly 70 percent of participating students are juniors or seniors, many of whom received academic community service credit associated with a course in community health, medicine/surgery, or public health
• A majority of participating students and their supervising faculty received the vaccine themselves in the course of the public vaccine campaigns
• Most of the schools partnered with either a local public health department, hospital, community health clinic or other social service agency, demonstrating the potential for mobilizing students and faculty to scale up community vaccination efforts
“This year has been a challenge for nurses and nursing education. We were compelled to look at the variables that made it possible for our schools and programs at every level of the academic spectrum to continue to thrive and also try to assess what obstacles may have impeded progress,” said NLN Chair Dr. Patricia S. Yoder-Wise, RN, EdD, NEA-BC, ANEF, FAONL, FAAN, Professor and Dean Emerita at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and president of The Wise Group. “What we found is a testament to the creativity, flexibility and adaptability of leadership, faculty, students and health care institutions as they’ve prioritized the preparation of a nursing workforce capable to respond to whatever challenges may arise.”
“It is quite encouraging to note the association of student vaccine administration with courses in community health and related areas,” said NLN President and CEO Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, FAAN. “As a model of an intervention that bridges the gap between academia and the community, it highlights the importance of facilitating student transition to practice while providing a valuable public service. With so many of the schools participating in vaccine campaigns in rural areas, students in particular have had the opportunity to serve people who often lack access to quality life-saving health care.”
Find the full survey results at NLN.org.