Educators Say Pandemic Made Training Nursing Students More Difficult

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VESTAL, NY (WSKG) – Hospitals and nursing home industry leaders and local officials have continued to warn of staffing shortages in healthcare. Educators say part of the issue goes all the way back to training and the requirements for new professionals to be certified.

One obstacle is that graduates need a certain number of hands-on practice hours working in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings.

“We are a practice discipline, and students need a place to practice off of a campus,” Ann Fronczek, Associate Professor at Binghamton’s Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences said. “They’re out in the community, they’re out in our nursing homes, they’re out in the hospital.”

Fronczek said it was difficult to find placements for students even before the COVID, but during the pandemic, many hospitals and nursing homes had to put limits on the number of people they could allow in their units. This made it even harder to find spots for students.

(AP Photo/Jenny Kane)

“[Hospitals] limited the number of students that can be on a unit in any given time,” said Fronczek. “A lot of the older adult care facilities completely shut us out, just for safety purposes, and kind of not bringing outsiders into their communities.”

While those hands-on experiences were limited, the nursing school was able to give students experience through its simulation lab. The simulations involve virtual reality scenarios and high tech mannequins.

“There’s obviously no real comparison for going into hospital in the early morning and having a patient, and really having that face to face contact, and working on bedside manner,” said Alyssa Vilda, a recent graduate of Decker College. “But I think that simulation is definitely a great way to supplement what we missed out on.”

Vilda added that the simulation lab training even gave students some practice scenarios that they might not have learned about in clinical placements.

“For example, a postpartum hemorrhage, you may not have that in clinical,” Vilda said. “But because you did the simulation you kind of know what to do.”

Vilda said that because she knew she might not be able to get as much clinical experience during the pandemic, she tried to make up for it by getting an externship in a pediatric ICU and working as a patient care technician in an emergency room.

Now a registered nurse in pediatrics at NYU Langone, Vilda said she has learned a lot from her colleagues, and from finally being in practice.