Innovative software to continue nurse training

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Portland Community College’s nursing program has moved entirely online using innovative software that allows its students to care for actor patients in real-time. The pivot has allowed its students to continue training, graduate on time and find jobs in the critical healthcare industry.

Rather than attending clinical experiences to practice direct patient care, students engage in virtual simulation using a product called “ATI Real Life Clinical Reasoning Scenarios,” which was approved by the Oregon State Board of Nursing. These scenarios were used in the National Council of State Boards of Nursing study, which concluded that simulation can effectively substitute for up to half of traditional clinical experiences.

“This will be different learning, but it will be no less valuable,” said Heather Reynolds, director of PCC’s nursing program. “Not all students get the opportunity to work with a patient experiencing chest pain, for example, so combining virtual scenarios with traditional clinical experiences may give students a breadth of experience they may not have otherwise gotten. The scenarios are really life-like and allow them to make independent decisions in a safe environment.”

How it works

In the virtual scenarios with medical actors, nursing students get to make independent decisions in key patient care scenarios, similar to a “Choose Your own Adventure” book. They get immediate feedback on their choices and can go back and see what would happen if they made different choices.

The real-life scenarios is in addition to nursing faculty developing remote classes and interactions so that students could complete spring term and graduate on time. Class content is posted online in recorded sessions where students can view asynchronously, on discussion boards, and in live virtual meetings during regularly scheduled course times.

Even before COVID-19, there was a high demand for nurses in Oregon. With the pandemic, the need has skyrocketed.

“Graduating is really important to our students, who have been working towards this goal for many years,” Reynolds said. “In addition to the benefit to our communities, it is also a way to financial security for our students. With so many facing hardships right now, it is critical for our students to be able to finish.”

Screen capture of Jason Lehman (upper right), a Portland Community College nursing instructor, using the virtual simulation platform. Image: PCC

About the Author

Sarah Rose Evans
is a program specialist at Portland Community College in Oregon.