Educating Future Nurses

COVID-19 pandemic sparked new learning strategies at Trinity

Morgan Frederiksen  |  MSN, RN, CEN, TNS

When I think of a a leader, an intellect, a person who runs in when the rest of the world runs out. My viewpoint is that of a nurse, so as I began to compose this article I wanted to find out what everyone else thinks of nurses. I surveyed my co-workers, students, friends, family, friends of friends, and contacts on social media to find the answer. They came up with words that can explain the field much better than I could. Over 200 people completed the survey, which was one question - "If you had to describe a nurse using ONE word, which word would you choose?" The most common descriptor was compassionate, and I very much agree. However, some words stuck out, especially in the middle of a pandemic. Strong. Hero. Grit. Fighter. 

It goes without saying that 2020 brought many challenges. As a registered nurse working at the bed-side in the emergency department and as a nursing instructor at Trinity College of Nursing & Health Sciences, I had numerous  concerns as the pandemic swept our country. Will I get sick? Can I be around my family? Will prospec-tive nursing students apply to nursing school during a pandemic? Can we even hold classes during a pandemic? I believe the unknown was what was the most intimidating at the start of it all.

Fortunately, as these questions arose, I was part of a phenomenal team that answered them all quickly. An important characteristic of a nurse is the ability to think on your feet. As the pandemic began, faculty and staff at Trinity College of Nursing & Health Sciences were quick to respond and make changes that were in the best interest of our students and patients as well as the faculty and staff. Faculty worked around the clock to transition students seamlessly when it was determined that classes would need to move to a virtual modality. Students were able to continue their didactic and clinical studies online, using up-to-date and modern technology. While the beginning of the transition seemed daunting, it actually provided faculty an opportunity to use their creativity to deliver information and active learning strategies in another environment, which was well-received by the students and will serve us well in the future.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, students were eager to get back into the hospital to help. Faculty advocated for the students, and they were able to return to in-person clinical rotations after two months of virtual clinical hours practice. The return to in-person clinical provided students valuable real-life experience in a hospital setting during an unprecedented time and was helpful to the health care staff working at the bedside, who welcomed students with open arms. It shows that in a time of crisis, nurses, even those in training, are fearless, another common word submitted in my survey. 

The ability of our Trinity College team to adapt and overcome the challenges of COVID-19 were highlighted during the valedictory address at our virtual Commencement ceremony last August. The 2020 Bachelor of Science in Nursing Valedictorian, Baillie McCunn, stated "I want to thank our professors. Thank you to our professors who were able to adapt to all the changes and create new learning environments for us during the middle of the pandemic. Thank you for getting creative in your teaching styles and creating new material for us to try. Thank you for pushing to get us back into the clinical setting prior to graduation. Thank you for providing us opportunities to grow and gain the knowledge we need to be educated nurses. Lastly, thank you for pushing us even when we did not have faith in ourselves."

Trinity College faculty, staff, administration, and governing board members are incredibly proud of our graduates for their many accomplishments. 2020 was posed many challenges, but the faculty and students rose to the occasion. This dedication and the feats accomplished benefited the larger com-munity. Graduating our classes on time provided help to local hospitals, as our graduates were hired and began working amidst the pandemic.

I am not the only faculty member that continues to work at the bedside and those of us who do bring a unique perspective to the Trinity College team. We able to keep up-to-date on current best practices. We witness firsthand what COVID-19 is doing to individuals in the community, and we are able to educate our students on signs and symptoms, treatment, vaccinations, and what it is like to work in health care during a pandemic - something new for me and many others.

Committed, trustworthy, resilient, selfless, dedicated, devoted, amazing - more words to describe my colleagues, friends, family, and students who all work in the health care field. Brave are those nurses who see what they are walking into, and they still open the door to care for patients in need. Being a nurse in the emergency department is amazing, being a nurse faculty member is amazing, being an alumna from Trinity College of Nursing & Health Sciences is amazing, and I am proud to call UnityPoint Trinity and Trinity College of Nursing & Health Sciences home.