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College of Nursing

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Rising to the Challenge: Excellence in Nursing Education During a Pandemic

Our commitment to excellence was tested when COVID-19 abruptly and dramatically impacted the spring semester. As the University of South Carolina’s campus closed and clinicals came to a halt, the College of Nursing leadership team worked diligently and creatively to develop a successful academic strategy for the college. While familiar and actively using online learning methods along with clinical education, a swift shift to complete virtual learning for all students required significant adjustments. With new safety policies in place at many learning hospitals, we worked diligently with our partners to keep clinical instruction moving along throughout the summer and fall, without disruption.

With guidance from the College of Nursing’s Director of Distributed Learning, Vera Polyakova-Norwood, faculty were able to transition their courses to virtual learning in a matter of weeks in March of this year. 

However, there was a looming concern among students, parents, and our clinical partners about learning quality. Our commitment to quality in preparing nurses required our faculty to be flexible and create safe virtual learning spaces without compromising hands-on learning experiences. Distributed teaching often involves significant changes in course content, teaching strategies, and evaluation methods.

"Online delivery works only when it is done well and all students' needs, including those for human connection and emotional support, are taken care of,” says Polyakova-Norwood. 

 lasses are now offered in an A/B format to accommodate large class sizes. “BSN students can either attend face-to-face or join the synchronous class online via Zoom,” says assistant professor, Laura Herbert. Many faculty utilize the innovative nature of online learning to provide new and unique experiences for their classes. Suzanne Sutton, assistant professor, shares, “In med-surg, we are using the opportunity to flip the classroom, which is very exciting. All lectures are recorded, which students review before coming to their assigned active learning days. Students who choose not to attend in person are using virtual classroom tools to stay engaged in learning activities.” 

Continuing Clinical Education during a Pandemic

In June, students could return to the hospitals for most of their clinical learning in addition to the innovative enhancements from the simulation lab. Hands-on experiences are an essential component of students’ building competencies to adequately prepare them for their transition into practice. The college’s academic team skillfully worked to modify the classroom and simulation experiences and lead students in clinical rotations in our health systems with all the required mitigation strategies recommended by our system partners, CDC, DHEC, and our university.

“We are proud to have robust relationships with our committed system partners who have worked with the College to keep our students safely in these clinical learning spaces to enhance their readiness for practice after graduation,” says Dean Jeannette Andrews

Since the beginning of COVID-19, we have remained steadfast in our commitment to quality and excellence. The past months have not disrupted our vision to be a prestigious college of nursing. These challenging times have made us stronger, shown us who we are, and have inspired us to keep moving forward.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.