Student nursing clinical rotations canceled amid COVID-19 outbreak

Wednesday, March 18, 2020 - 3:59pm

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Design by Cara Jhang

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, students in the School of Nursing now have to complete their work for this semester virtually while still meeting requirements set by the state nursing board and other accredited bodies.

Patricia Hurn, dean of School of Nursing at the University of Michigan, announced in an email Wednesday that Nursing seniors had completed their clinical placements.

“These requirements have all centered on the basic skills and competencies that are met by an on-site presence rather than simulation or classroom-based education,” Hurn wrote. “Therefore, your on-site clinical placements are completed as of 7:00 p.m. today, March 18th, for the remainder of the term. We want to congratulate each one of you! We are proud of you and your work.”

The announcement noted seniors will be required to “participate in innovative, remote experiences within your respective clinical groups” and will be updated by their respective faculty with more information.

Nursing senior Jayne Hubscher said she recognized it must have been a difficult decision for the University to make, and though she wishes she could finish her in-person clinical rotations, she said she understands the decision is best for student and patient safety. 

“At the end of the day, the patients’ safety has to come first, and we can’t risk exposing them to COVID-19 when there’s no actual screening process for the students,” Hubscher said. “Unfortunately, we’re going to have to finish up our clinical experiences online, but it’s what’s best in a situation like this which is unprecedented.”

In a separate notice directed to juniors sent out on the same day, Hurn said their on-site clinicals would also be suspended as of 7 p.m. Juniors will now have virtual clinical experiences for the remainder of the term and are expected to hold the last two and a half weeks in August for boot camp and deferred clinical experiences. 

In an email to The Daily, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald noted students’ safety is of the utmost importance to the University, adding that alternative options are being developed to prepare students for new challenges they may face in clinical settings.

Previously, sophomore clinical rotations were canceled on Sunday in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. Nursing juniors and seniors were sent a separate email on Sunday from Dana Tschannen, incoming associate dean for undergraduate studies at the School of Nursing, explaining why sophomore clinical rotations were canceled as well as offering future plans for junior and senior clinicals.

The email said the School of Nursing believed sophomores would be able to meet requirements set by the Michigan Board of Nursing and accredited bodies though a virtual format.

Nursing sophomore Samantha Toomey said she does not believe having online clinical rotations will put her behind.

“We’re still going to have the clinicals next year and the year after,” Toomey said. “This semester, we’re kind of just getting started, and we didn’t have a ton of responsibilities. Since we’re sophomores, we still have a lot of time to catch up and we have a lot more hours ahead of us.”

Toomey said she recognized the current situation is not ideal, however, she said she believes this change was essential to limit COVID-19 transmissions.

“I think it’s a better learning experience to be in-person, but given the current situation, there are other things that are more important than getting our curriculum fulfilled,” Toomey said. “I feel like the health of the patient and student are more important than sticking to curriculum hours.”

At the time of the Sunday email, juniors had recently had their first clinical rotations of the year, and the email strongly encouraged them to keep attending current rotations. 

Seniors in nursing have two tracks they can choose to complete: Leadership and Management/Community or Complex Care. Regarding the Leadership and Management/Community track, the email noted some community clinicals had already closed. For those that had not, the email said to continue going. For seniors in Complex Care, the email urged seniors to add an extra shift while they were looking at alternative options. 

Hubscher said a lot of students were trying to fit in as many hours as they could to finish their requirements as soon as possible. 

“One of my cohort (members) had considered doing 16-hour shifts at the hospital to get her hours done,” Hubscher said. “In the past, the most we’ve done is 12 hours.”

Nursing senior Joanna Yeh is on the Leadership and Management/Community track and said her clinical instructor canceled her community clinical before the announcement today.

“My community clinicals were supposed to be at a retirement home,” Yeh said. “That’s probably not the best idea for us. A lot of us work at the hospital, and we’re going in and out of the hospital. It’s not a good idea for us to go into a retirement home for people who are literally the most vulnerable population.”

Yeh said she was not worried about graduating because she believed her instructor was doing everything in her power to provide support to students.

“My clinical instructor has made it very clear that she’s going to make sure we will graduate no matter what happens,” Yeh said. “She’s gone through all these different modules in order to make up for the hours that we’re missing from being in person.”

Many Nursing students told The Daily they felt stressed and confused as they were not certain what would happen to clinical rotations and classes moving forward as the COVID-19 situation develops.

Yeh said she was anxious when the University first began responding to COVID-19 because of the uncertainty. However, she said she understands this is a developing situation and is grateful to the School of Nursing for providing frequent updates. 

“The School of Nursing is honestly doing a pretty good job with keeping us updated,” Yeh said. “Things are changing every second, they’ve been sending us so many different emails with the changes. They’re keeping us updated to the best of their ability and I can’t be mad at that. I know it must be hard to be on both sides.”

Reporter Francesca Duong can be reached at fduong@umich.edu.