Nursing school supplements clinicals with simulations to graduate seniors

Updated: Mar. 25, 2020 at 11:38 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Students set to graduate from LSU Health New Orleans School of Nursing are unable to finish their real-world, hospital training. Now, leaders believe they have a virtual solution to get these new nurses where they're needed most.

“I have lots of friends who are nurses on the front lines and they’re very tired right now. They are overworked and they need resources,” said LSU Health New Orleans School of Nursing’s Dr. Todd Tartavoulle.

As federal, state and local leaders work to get healthcare workers the necessary supplies and equipment to fight the COVID-19 outbreak, more manpower could be on the way.

"Our goal is to actually have our students out in the healthcare environment earlier than anticipated," Dr. Tartavoulle said.

Dr. Tartavoulle believes his nursing program has figured out a way to do that.

“We’re doing virtual clinicals, which is pretty cool,” said Dr. Tartavoulle.

When medical programs ceased clinicals due to a surge in Coronavirus cases, school leaders opted to expand the simulations already part of the curriculum.

"We have some testing companies that have all these virtual packages to where a student can go in," said Tartavoulle. "See the patient has a chief complaint of shortness of breath. They go into the case study and they get a history, just like they were at a hospital."

Dr. Tartavoulle says students follow the same procedures they would were the simulations real.

“They go into the virtual, clinical simulation to where they click on the patient and they have to do the correct steps. You know, how do you assess the lungs? You have to put the stethoscope where they would listen to the lungs. They get the lung sounds,” Dr. Tartavoulle explained.

LSU Health representatives say their graduating medical students studying to be physicians will get their diplomas and residencies but those with more clinical hours needed are, for now, out of luck. Not only does the virus pose a risk to students, they say medical supplies must be reserved for the doctors treating patients.

At the Tulane School of Medicine, Vice Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Kevin Krane says a group of fourth-year students still has to finish some clinical activities. He says these students are their top priority, as long as it's safe to resume classes. Right now, Dr. Krane is hopeful, when most residency programs in July, students will be able to move forward to residencies.

"We plan and are anticipating using, hopefully late June, late May, to bring students through who have required clinical activities to make sure they meet all of their accreditation requirements," Dr. Krane said.

Dr. Krane said it’s not necessary for medical students to put themselves into danger by coming into contact with confirmed cases.

"However, should this pandemic continue to worsen and go into months, I think all of this will be reconsidered, specifically because of the wear and tear on the healthcare system," said Dr. Krane.

In the next couple of weeks, Dr. Tartavoulle hopes that system will be 131 nurses stronger.

"We're hoping, by giving our students these clinical simulation hours, they're actually going to finish quicker," said Dr. Tartavoulle. "They can get into the workforce quicker to help relieve some of that stress and anxiety that's going on."

Dr. Tartavoulle adds the students have already completed around 95-percent of their clinical hours.

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