Preparing Nurses in a Pandemic


The World Health Organization designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, celebrating the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. The global pandemic has shown how essential healthcare workers are and provided unique challenges for nurses, public health practitioners and students preparing for these careers. As part of TCU’s Connected Campus Plan, Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences faculty and staff have been training and planning for high-quality online and blended instruction for the fall semester.

Some nursing faculty will use a flipped classroom for online and hybrid instruction, asking students to watch videos, read lectures and other materials on their own time before meeting together on Zoom for large and small group discussions. Instructors can move between breakout rooms and give feedback in a setting with minimal distractions and use games like Kahoot! and Jeopardy to help students understand the material. Assistant Professor Shirley Martin said her students in the spring semester performed better and retained more information than previous semesters using the games to learn concepts.

Shirley Martin


Though lectures and group projects work well in online and blended learning formats, Martin said it is a challenge to safely provide enough clinical hours for nursing students.

“So much of our education of nurses requires being face-to-face and physically close to other humans,” she said. “We have some clinical sites that refuse to have student nurses right now for various reasons, including lack of enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep everyone safe.”

Practical Pandemic Experience

Carol Howe, Paula R. and Ronald C. Parker Endowed Professor in Nursing and Associate Professor of Nursing, will use her funded project with Safer Care Texas within the UNT Health Science Center called WebLitLegit to provide practical experience for her students in the fall. Her public health nursing students will work virtually with about 200 Texas Can Academy students, helping them discern between reliable and unreliable health information on the Internet and social media.



“I’ll have my students deploy the project and will ask them to add COVID-19 information because I think teenagers are looking up COVID-19 information on their own,” she said.

Howe said the WebLitLegit project plans to expand to include younger children and older adults to help them find reliable information about COVID-19 and other public health issues.

“COVID-19 has made everyone doubt the scientific process,” she said. “We get data in real time and then it changes. For someone who doesn’t understand the scientific process, it seems like scientists are making things up.”

Howe said in addition to Intensive Care Unit (ICU) skills, experience with telehealth will be crucial for nursing students even after the pandemic. She will continue discussing how students can successfully lead virtual visits and provide good patient education.

Teaching Resiliency
As COVID-19 cases have spiked in different areas over the course of the pandemic, some nurses can be extremely overworked and weary, while others in less affected areas may experience shift cuts. Martin will teach a resiliency elective for the first time this the fall that will teach evidence-based, practical skills and techniques for students to stay mindful and grounded through difficult life experiences. Students will learn about topics including mindfulness and mindfulness meditation, will keep journals and interact with one another virtually.

Lisette Saleh

Assistant Professor Lisette Saleh said that nurses must be even more supportive in the absence of patients’ family members, while wearing full PPE and managing concerns about their own physical, emotional and mental health.

“Nursing is both a science and an art – sadly we are not able to physically touch many patients and they never seen our smiling faces or feel human touch due to needs for protection,” she said. “Nursing is forever changed with the challenges nurses have faced, alongside the appreciation of the career. I think it says something that we have had so many incoming students declare nursing as their major.”

TCU faculty are committed to providing an outstanding academic experience for students, whether courses are online, in person or a combination of both. For more information and resources for fall 2020, visit the TCU Connected Campus site