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Graduation. A time when college students finally see the reward of their hard work. The hours of studying. The dozens of projects. Thousands of pages read.

Following the celebration, nursing students typically gear up for the NCLEX-RN — a national licensing exam required for registered nurses to work. 

But this year is different. The largest nursing cohort in Schoolcraft College’s history is set to graduate this May, and they’re heading straight to the front lines around Michigan to combat COVID-19.

Entering the final semester of nursing school, our students never could have imagined they would be immediately gearing up to serve during a pandemic. When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the temporary RN licensure, it allowed graduates to work as nurses immediately to quickly provide more medical support to the front lines. 

More: Schoolcraft nursing students begin careers amid pandemic

But we first had to make sure our students were prepared and could complete the course and program outcomes in order to graduate. We were able to accomplish this feat thanks to the power of distance learning and telehealth technology. 

Over spring break, students and instructors fully transitioned from traditional clinicals and face-to-face teaching to distance learning platforms. While lectures and exams were less complex adjustments, as faculty were able to do video classes and proctored online assessments, the nursing program had to get creative to meet clinical hour requirements. Students utilized telehealth assignments with community individuals and other virtual learning assignments while recognizing social distancing measures from home. 

These assignments were created to be as realistic as possible. For example, one required students to reach out to members in the community across the lifespan and complete an assessment, including a full medical history. Students had to identify how these assessments could be done utilizing telehealth technology. From there, they needed to identify priority problems for the individuals assessed, create a care plan, and incorporate appropriate teaching to help with their current or chronic health problems. 

The students also utilized virtual learning to complete a variety of scenario-based learning experiences with unfolding changes in the patient scenario for common health care diagnoses. COVID-19 patient care scenarios were also created to prepare students to enter a hospital system inundated with current COVID-19 patients. 

Although challenging, we must remember that this is our new norm. Embracing distance learning educational tools and becoming familiar with capabilities is no longer an option – it’s inevitable. These 168 graduates are proof of its value. Our nurses will graduate on time and are ready to serve, along with thousands of other college students in Michigan.

Dr. Debi Vendittelli, associate dean of nursing

Schoolcraft College

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