UW Nursing Study Looks at Crisis Preparedness During Pandemic

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Sherrill Smith

As the COVID-19 pandemic closed college campuses across the United States, students in the University of Wyoming College of Health Sciences — specifically, the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing — faced additional educational complications.

Clinical sites, where nursing students practice critical skills, requested that students not be sent to these locations, to allow them to preserve their personal protective equipment and concentrate on caring for their patient populations. Addressing these sudden changes proved challenging not only to the students themselves, but also to nurse education leaders. The new set of challenges included how to make short-notice, yet important, decisions on how to provide students a learning structure while continuing their classwork in remote locations.

Sherrill Smith, dean of the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing, partnered with Professors Sharon Farra and Ann Stalter, both from Wright State University, and Kristine Qureshi, associate dean for research and global health from the University of Hawaii-Mānoa. The four will study how nursing education leaders make critical decisions during an emergency such as the current coronavirus pandemic.

Smith points out that not everyone in a position of nursing education leadership has been able to respond to the changes brought about by COVID-19 in a scripted manner.

“One of the specific aims of this study is to determine the level of crisis leadership preparedness of nursing education leaders and report on decision-making processes during the COVID-19 crisis,” Smith says. “We hope to be able to describe nursing education leaders’ situational awareness during the COVID-19 health crisis.”

At the onset of the pandemic, both undergraduate and graduate faculty members in the UW School of Nursing acted quickly to ensure that alternative learning experiences were available to students so they could continue to practice clinical reasoning skills and decision-making.

The undergraduate teaching team identified an online virtual learning opportunity for undergraduate students to allow them to continue to practice patient care, as well as practice and demonstrate skills while sheltering at home.

The doctoral nurse practitioner team also identified opportunities for alternative online experiences as well as continuing to engage students in telehealth practices, keeping students on the cutting edge of current trends in health care, given the pandemic and beyond.

“The survey study was sent to nursing education leader participants during the month of April, and a research team is now analyzing data that can hopefully be published soon in a nursing education journal,” Smith says. “The results of this survey study will help inform preparation and decision-making for future disaster-related events.”

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