Posted on Dec 15, 2020

USF College of Nursing Introduces COVID Care Pilot Program

USF College of Nursing Introduces COVID Care Pilot Program

To assure nursing students have the skills to take care of patients infected with the coronavirus, the USF Health College of Nursing is launching a COVID Care pilot program that teaches the fundamentals of the disease and associated patient care practices.

The new initiative will launch in the Spring 2021 semester. The pilot program will train 130 senior-level nursing students on critical nursing interventions by reinforcing infectious disease protocols while providing information on the latest treatments for COVID-19.

“We have to make sure our students are well prepared to walk into a designated COVID unit and take care of patients,” said Dr. Tiffany Gwartney, interim assistant dean of undergraduate and global programs at the College of Nursing.

The goal is to give students some formalized education that provides a basic understanding of the coronavirus and COVID-19 disease. The pilot program will start with undergraduate nursing students in the preceptorship course within their final semester.

Dr. Gwartney said the team hopes to offer the COVID Care pilot program at several clinical partner sites across Tampa Bay, including Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, Lakeland Regional Hospital, and Tampa General Hospital.

Once nursing students complete the COVID Care education module, they will receive a sticker for their badge that designates them as a “COVID Care Team Member.” They will then be assigned a preceptor at one of the college’s clinical partner sites. As students log clinical hours caring for patients with COVID-19, they will receive a certificate of completion.

Dr. Gwartney said the need to teach students the fundamentals of how to care for patients with COVID-19 became clear in April when the pandemic forced many clinical partners to halt clinical opportunities for several weeks, affecting the progression of 2,200 undergraduate and graduate students.

“I knew we had to educate our students about this new patient population that emerged onto the healthcare landscape and get them prepared,” she said. “I just thought, we are really doing our students a disservice by not preparing them better.”

Dr. Gwartney rolled out the COVID Care education module to 40 undergraduate nursing students during the Fall 2020 semester. The education module includes an interactive virtual simulation featuring faculty from the College of Nursing, that allows participants to learn about caring for a maternity couplet on airborne precautions, while the mother undergoes evaluation for COVID-19 disease.

Dr. Gwartney worked with Pranam Parsanlal, an instructional designer at the college, to help create a simulation that is easy to understand and best meets the needs of different learners.

Student feedback about the course contents has been positive.

Nursing student Lisa Villarreal said the simulations and interactive videos gave her more confidence in communicating with COVID-19 patients and performing assessments while still maintaining safety precautions.

“It was a good refresher on how to use and remove PPE,” she said. “I feel more prepared, but I am still nervous about spreading coronavirus to my family, friends, patients, and members of the community.”

Fellow student Amber Stirn said she appreciated how the videos and simulations were informative and interactive.

“I am definitely more confident donning and doffing PPE and in my ability to safely care for COVID-positive patients,” Stirn said. “It was also useful to see how to care for both the mother and newborn while trying to minimize the newborn’s exposure to the potentially infectious mother.”

Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing