Educating the Next Generation of Essential Healthcare Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Susan Sanders, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, Vice President of Kaplan Nursing | June 23, 2020

We don’t take it lightly that we have the privilege of playing a major role in the education of the next generation of essential healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a time when healthcare education has been forced from a hands-on, on-campus model to a 100% virtual environment, we have activated online learning tools across our organization to ensure continuity of education for future doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners.

Our team of dedicated nurse educators and service professionals have spent the last few months working overtime to support nursing programs with our integrated digital learning tools that span the curriculum, and helping to bridge the gap between the completion of nursing school and entrance into the workforce.

Supporting Nurse Educators

We knew early on in the pandemic that it was our duty to tap into our 10+ years of online teaching experience and our deep bench of learning science and instructional design experts to share knowledge and resources with educators across the country moving into the online classroom for the first time. To help educators through these uncertain and stressful times, our team of digital learning experts have created free resources to help manage the transition from in-person to online classrooms through actionable strategies for success. 

In the midst of everything else, we’ve also remained committed to honoring our partnership with the World Health Organization through the Nursing Now’s Year of the Nurse Nightingale Challenge. Kaplan Nursing is proud to support early-career nurse educators through mentorship, learning, and community building.  

And, while working through all the challenges in the present, we’ve remained diligently focused on continuing our preparation for the future. We are forging ahead on our Next Generation NCLEX (NGN) preparations, and as we learn more from NCSBN we’re regularly releasing NGN resources for educators. Most recently, we released steps to writing effective NGN questions and published a new white paper on Creating Next Generation NCLEX® Test Items to Ensure the Success of the Nursing Workforce.

Guiding Students from the Classroom to Acute Care

Since the pandemic, we've leveraged our live online learning platform to offer NCLEX® preparation in a completely digital environment, offering nearly 1400 hours* of live online instruction to nursing students preparing to enter the workforce in the near future. While online instruction is the “new normal” for many—it’s nothing new for us. We have over 10 years of experience and expertise in the digital classroom environment, and we were effectively able to make the transition to a fully-remote model while providing quality and engaging instruction to thousands of students prepping for licensure this year.

In addition to virtual NCLEX prep courses, new-grad nurses across the country have turned to Kaplan’s Nursing Channel for live and recorded sessions to learn high-yield content they need to pass the NCLEX and be successful as they transition to practice. In response to current events, experienced ICU nurses on our content teams quickly developed a Mechanical Ventilation session that we made available to all Kaplan Nursing students, which explains mechanical ventilator settings, discusses potential complications of mechanical ventilation, and explores nursing considerations for a COVID-19 client receiving mechanical ventilation.

We also supported institutions in moving assessments online. As benchmark testing is critical to assessing  student competency, we pivoted to ensure that our partner programs had  tests available that they could deliver remotely, including secure exams that can be proctored remotely using online test security applications and best practices. Heading into Fall 2020 we will be releasing additional tests and proctoring resources that will make facilitating remote integrated tests even easier for nursing programs.

Providing Virtual Patient Encounters for Safe, Repeatable Practice

In a time when on-site clinical hours were not an option, hundreds of institutions turned to us to provide their students quality clinical learning opportunities. Through our virtual simulation unit, i-Human Patients by Kaplan, we have been able to offer over 430,000 virtual client encounter experiences** to nursing and other health professional students since the start of the pandemic.

As an added benefit—even in a time outside of a global pandemic—virtual simulation solves many problems for institutions struggling for any reason to offer consistent, fair clinical experiences that allow educators to build and assess clinical competency. The i-Human Patients virtual patient encounters were specifically designed to be completely aligned with Next Generation NCLEX Clinical Judgment Measurement Model released by NCSBN.

Additionally, early on in the crisis our internal academic experts partnered with an infectious disease specialist to develop a special COVID-19 case, which allowed students and faculty to meet a virtual patient presenting with symptoms, and watch a full exam play out—from patient history all the way through to diagnosis.

Bridging the Gap Until Test Day

While  graduating nursing students in many areas of the country were facing (and are continuing to face) NCLEX⁠ testing delays and looking for creative ways to bridge the gap between end of classes and their test day, we released additional NCLEX-RN resources to our customers at no additional cost. 

We released a series of Crucial Content Nursing Channel sessions covering the critical information that students need to stay sharp between the end of class and taking the NCLEX-RN—whenever that may be possible. This includes eight newly recorded sessions covering crucial content and associated NCLEX-style questions, with guided critical thinking exercises provided by an expert nurse educator.  Session videos were indexed by subject/topic to help students hone in on specific portions of the videos where they want to concentrate their efforts. For our RN students enrolled in Live Online NCLEX Reviews from April-June, we provided access to 9+ new Challenge Tests providing over 1,000 new practice questions, covering varied topics including Maternity, Community, Leadership/Management, Gerontology, Pathophysiology, Research, Nutrition, and Transitions. Finally, we provided all RN & PN Kaplan students with 900 new digital medication flashcards covering 299 medications across 22 drug types frequently tested on the NCLEX, allowing students to test themselves on medication purpose, side effects and nursing considerations.

In addition to these supplemental resources for students, our Executive Director of Nurse Consulting, Maria Flores-Harris, DNP, RN, CNE provided tips for nurse educators on how to keep students engaged, focused, and calm between graduation and test day.

While 2020 has presented incredible challenges to higher education, I am proud of our Kaplan team for working tirelessly to provide solutions to our partner institutions. I am confident—even as we head into more uncertainty—that we are well-positioned to respond to whatever may happen, and are prepared to support educators every step of the way.

If you’d like to learn more about our plans to support Nursing programs, please fill out this form.

*Total combined hours of live instruction of Kaplan NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN Live Online courses from March 11, 2020 to present.

**Total combined number of i-Human Patient case attempts or assignment plays by all users from 3/11/2020 to 5/21/2020.

As Vice President of Kaplan Nursing, Dr. Sanders, oversees the vision and strategy surrounding product development, research and consulting for the company’s full suite of nursing products.  The nursing team has expanded Kaplan’s NCLEX prep business into benchmark testing and remediation with the addition of service and consulting. She has focused on student, faculty, staff and program development through an emphasis on outcomes. She is experienced in delivering presentations to regional and national audiences. She has gained additional leadership expertise as president of the state nurses association, through professional memberships, and through board certification as an Advanced Nurse Executive (NEA-BC).

See more posts by Susan Sanders, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, Vice President of Kaplan Nursing