As coronavirus sweeps through nation, student teachers and nurses must make do without students, patients

​How are the students who typically must practice their career skills in a physical setting being affected by universities moving classes online?

​Managing News Editor​

In response to the recent coronavirus outbreaks occurring across the country, universities are shutting down their campuses in favor of online schooling. However, how does this affect the students who typically must practice their career skills in a physical setting?

Olivia Porrazzo is a senior elementary teacher education major with a concentration in special education. When she first heard the news of the university shutting down, her mind instantly veered towards the thought of student teaching.

“[On] Wednesday I came home, and I was in the mindset that I was going back to class on Thursday,” Porrazzo said. “I had lessons planned, I had things to teach to the kids [and] I didn’t get to say goodbye to the kids.”

The shutdown of campus holds many more practical impairments to the education of university students in Porrazzo’s position. Student teachers at the university take part in its teacher education program, which requires 12 weeks of student teaching. This is now impaired by the preventative measures enforced by the university, which keep education majors from visiting schools and nursing majors from entering healthcare facilities.

“I think we’re all just worried that if we don’t meet this 12 weeks, would we still be able to graduate and get institutional recommendation?” Porrazzo said.

According to the university’s 2018-2019 elementary teacher education undergraduate advisement handbook, “institutional recommendation is necessary to apply for certification in all states.”

The university’s school of education has yet to state their plans on how to resolve this situation, but addressed their efforts in an email sent by Kristina Najera, the director of the Delaware Center for Teacher Education.

“In light of the current situation, we are working on ways that you can complete the student teaching requirements as determined by the Delaware Department of Education,” Najera said in the email. “It is our hope that all of you will go back to your schools very soon to complete student teaching requirements. However, in the event that you will not, we will provide alternatives to help you fulfill your obligations.”

However, student teaching is not the only graduation requirement impaired by the campus shutdown. The Teacher Performance Assessment is a subject-specific portfolio-based assessment that student teachers must complete in order to demonstrate their preparedness for teaching. It includes filming themselves while teaching a lesson to students.

“Thankfully, I have done it already, but I know a lot of my friends haven’t even filmed or anything,” Porrazzo said. “So now they are sitting here like ‘Oh, what if we don’t go back into the classroom?’ They still need to get it done. Some schools even need it done to get a job.”

Student nurses across the university are in a similar position as student teachers. Following the announcement that university students would not be able to return to campus, it was announced the student nurses would also be fully transitioning to a completely online coursework, including clinical coursework.

During their senior year, student nurses must take part in six clinical rotations, three each semester, which each last four weeks. They are organized into groups and rotate through the settings throughout the year.

During their first semester, seniors take part in their pediatrics rotation, part one of their medical-surgical rotation and either their psychiatry or community nursing rotation. During their second semester, they are expected to complete part two of their medical-surgical rotation, either their psychiatry or community nursing rotation (depending on what they took the semester before) and their preceptorship, which always comes last. The preceptorship is intended to allow student nurses more practice in the field they would like to work in.

At this point in time, the majority of senior nursing students have completed all three rotations required of them last semester and only one required of them this semester.

“I was lucky to be in the group that had med-surg [part 2] first, so I got through my med-surg rotation, and now the only one I have to make up is psych nursing,” senior nursing student Lucy Davies said. “Just the nature of psych nursing is that it’s a lot more written work, it’s a lot more case studies.”

According to Davies, the medical-surgical rotations allow student nurses to learn skills applicable to the typical hospital ward.

“I really feel for the people that didn’t even get to start med-surg [part 2],” Davies said. “I mean it’s impossible to learn those types of skills, hanging IV’s, giving injections, medication administration, physical therapy. That kind of stuff you can’t do online.”

Rachel Susie is one of the students that Davies is referring to. For the beginning portion of the semester, Susie was completing her community nursing rotation in a middle school. She will have to complete part two of her med-surg rotation through online coursework.

“The first rotation I had this semester was in a community setting,” Susie said. “It was actually in a middle school, so I actually wasn’t getting the in-hospital skills I need, like administering IVs, injections, all that type of stuff. And I definitely feel like I need more practice with that.”

However, both Susie and Davies, like all other nursing students at the university will not be able to complete their preceptorships this semester. After graduation, Davies hopes to work in the field of pediatrics and was one of an estimated 25 students assigned to a pediatrics preceptorship.

“Having that additional experience on my resume was a big deal for me job-wise,” Davies said. “It was also going to be a way for me to narrow down if that’s what I really wanted to do. I might have started it and been like ‘I don’t know what I was thinking, this is not for me,’ so now I don’t have that reassurance.”

Porrazzo is in a similar situation as the student nurses. Though she has a concentration in special education, she is unsure if she will be able to partake in her special education placement due to the circumstances.

“This semester, I’m doing my special [education] placement,” Porrazzo said. “So this is where I’m trying to learn all the different components of that. [I’m only] half way done with it. We have to do this big project for this special [education] placement and now I don’t know if that’s even going to happen. And just all that exposure to that looks like it was taken away.”

Senior nursing student Maddie McVey shared her own concerns about online learning.

“Learning it through a screen is never going to be the same experience and the same depth of education as doing it for real, so that fact that we’re losing out on that is kind of a blow,” McVey said. “When we graduate … everyone’s going to know that we’re the year that coronavirus affected. So it’s not like they’re going to cut us some slack, but they should be understanding that our whole year was affected by this situation.”

Susie, McVey and Davies all found problems with the communication between the school of nursing and the university.

“Originally they were saying that we were still going to continue clinicals,” Susie said. “But [this past week], they’ve told us we’re going to come back on the 23rd and we’ll continue clinicals as normal. But, I guess, now that the university is closed down, they sent something else that said it was cancelled for the semester and we’ll be moving to online. So I think the school of nursing is trying to go along with the university in a way, but they’ve been acting independently which is confusing.”

McVey echoed Susie.

“I do think it took a little bit long,” McVey said. “Even after the campus was shut down, it took two days for them to say that clinicals were cancelled. I understand that was obviously a hard decision to make and I am also suspecting that they were waiting for information from the American Nurses Association and other hierarchical groups.”

McVey additionally found it a somewhat ineffective technique for the university to post an announcement on social media about the early arrival of spring break before sending out an email to elaborate.

“That may have created more panic for people,” McVey said. “It was only an hour later that they came out with the email, so they should’ve just waited to say.”

Porrazzo also found issues with the school of education’s communication in regard to her recently cancelled Praxis test, an American teacher certification exam.

“On Saturday, I was supposed to be taking my final Praxis exam,” Porrazzo said. “And up until Friday, actually, they told me that I would still be taking it on Saturday and then the entire campus just shut down. So now I’m a little worried about when I’m going to take that.”

Davies stated the cancellation of clinicals seemed somewhat uncoordinated, as the university announced the early arrival of spring break last Wednesday, but several student nurses showed up at the clinical rotations the day after.

“And as much as I understand [the school of nursing] saying ‘Okay, we’re going to continue to send you until the clinical locations don’t let you,’ I think that was a mistake,” Davies said. “We might not get sick from it in the hospital, but also if we’ve been exposed and we don’t know, because we knew that it was people on campus that have it, we’re not bringing that into the hospital, to people who are immunosuppressed, who already have respiratory issues. Even for one day, I don’t think that was necessary. But I do understand that they really wanted us to finish that clinical.”

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