Published June 7, 2021
Picture all-too-typical COVID-19 academics. The organic nature of classroom learning yields to the isolation of remote learning. Students familiar with interacting organically become boxes with strict borders in a Zoom chat.
Now imagine nursing students, accustomed to spending intense, lengthy time together. This time they face the rigorous lessons on saving lives and managing a modern health care system alone in their makeshift study areas. What’s more, the virus has scattered their clinical placements. What is normally a close-knit group of students sharing experiences and becoming comfortable with each other now adjusts to remote-style, computer screen alienation.
Enter Kelly Foltz-Ramos, assistant professor and director of simulation in the School of Nursing. Foltz-Ramos had a plan.
Students in her most recent NSG348 Evidence-Based Practice and Nursing Research class normally spent time cultivating the spirit of inquiry at the beginning of class, “a key step in the evidence-based practice process,” says Foltz-Ramos.
“The students will speak about clinical problems they have seen or things that don't make sense,” she says, “and we talk about it in the context of evidence-based practice and what the next step might be.”
This semester, Foltz-Ramos found no students willing to speak up. Part of the reluctance she blamed on clinical placement issues of COVID, and also because students are not as familiar with each other and don’t feel as comfortable speaking up in an electronic group of 25 students, she explains.
“I decided early on that I needed to change my strategy,” she says. “Instead of having the students share during class, I have had them submit entries through a Google form to ‘The Spirit of Inquiry Contest.’”
Foltz-Ramos’ Spirit of Inquiry Contest, held entirely online, challenged students to connect what they were learning in class with clinical practice. Their assignment: become alert to clinical issues or processes that caused problems or did not seem quite right. They then had to form an evidence-based practice question around that issue, identify the population, and propose new intervention/process, current intervention/process and the outcome.
“Dr. Foltz-Ramos was able to stimulate the students’ spirit of inquiry, help them understand that their role in evidence-based practice is to improve patient care outcomes and nursing practice,” says Donna Fabry, pre-licensure programs coordinator and clinical associate professor, who judged the entries with Foltz-Ramos.
“There have been so many issues with students feeling they are not getting the ‘college experience’ and having difficulties with content,” adds Sarah Goldthrite, director of marketing, communications and alumni engagement for the School of Nursing. “This is in addition to not being able to form typical bonds with classmates — and this has happened across most, if not all, disciplines. This is a good example of how, yes, that did happen here, but the faculty member pivoted in her approach to address the unique issue precipitated by COVID.”
Nursing student Gabrielle Orbeta was named the Spirit of Inquiry champion. Her winning submission addressed issues within nursing education, questioning the impact on knowledge gained in clinical by having a student assigned to one nurse versus having a student assigned to one patient.
“Overall, I liked this contest because it was a fun way to build a spirit of inquiry in nursing students,” Orbeta says. “It made me realize there is always room for improvement in the health care field, and as a hopeful future nurse, it is important I pay attention to where I can help make those improvements.”