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COVID-19 Is Improving The Way We Educate Health Professionals

Plato said that “necessity is the mother of invention.” And he was right. We wouldn’t have instant noodles as we know them today if Momofuku Ando hadn't noticed the mass food shortages in Japan following World War Two, and decided to invent a quick and easy ramen that could be made anywhere. We also wouldn’t have the vegetarian sausage if Konrad Adenauer hadn’t created his Friedenswurst or “peace sausage” as a response to food shortages in his home city of Cologne during World War One.

Similarly, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a crisis in the education of health professionals. Suddenly, students have been unable to attend lectures and seminars, they can’t attend their placements, and teachers have been left scrambling to convert their lesson plans into an online format. Out of this crisis, however, have been borne some ingenious solutions that will continue to provide real value once the pandemic is over.

Online Learning

Most institutions have found it incredibly challenging to move their curriculums online. However, now that they have mastered this difficult process, they may find that it is ultimately a positive solution for both institutions and students.

Moving learning online allows for greater flexibility. Removing the restrictions of having to book a room in a university or college means that lessons can be scheduled at a time most suited to those participating in it. This makes it much easier for people to continue to work while they study, which in turn, makes studying a much more attractive option than it has been before.

Online learning also means that students and teachers alike can choose the environment in which they work, which allows for better performance. Some people simply don’t feel comfortable in a crowded and noisy lecture hall and will gain much more from a lecture delivered online in the comfort of their living room.

Selection of Placements

The pandemic has meant that institutions have to allow greater flexibility for students around placements. Due to being in vulnerable groups, some students have had to defer their placements for a year, while others have managed to secure placements in institutions that are lower risk for the transmission of coronavirus.

This flexibility and support around placements for nursing clinicals is a feature that Wilkes University advocates. They support their online programs by helping students to secure placements that are near to where they live, and are in line with their career goals. This flexibility means much better learning outcomes, and a better placement experience for both the student and the hospital.

Simulated Scenarios

Some universities in the UK have responded to the issue around nursing placements by allowing students to gain some of their required clinical hours in a simulated setting. While obviously not a replacement for a real-life situation, the benefit of using simulations is that teachers can ensure that their students have experienced and dealt with simulations of challenging situations, so that if they occur in real life the student feels more prepared.

Simulations also allow students to rigorously practice specific areas of their work in a way that a real-life placement doesn’t. A student might feel very uncomfortable in a certain situation for example, or know that they are very likely to come into contact with a specific patient type in their chosen career path. They can rehearse these situations using simulations as often as they like in order to feel comfortable. Simulations mean that the student can dictate the amount of extra practice they get in order to improve on the areas that they need to.

Extra Support

As we know, these are unprecedented times. Anxiety and uncertainty are rife. Learning institutions are well aware of the impact that this level of anxiety is having on their staff and students, and as such, many of them are providing extra opportunities for conversations about mental wellbeing, or at least regularly signposting the options that are already there.

This focus on wellbeing above productivity is a positive, because when people are feeling well they are naturally more productive. If productivity is the focus without the wellbeing element, then this is the perfect recipe for burnout, which is a huge problem in the medical profession.

If we can continue to promote this focus on wellbeing in the post-coronavirus world, we will create educational institutions and workplaces where people are not just getting by, but where they can truly thrive. Creating this kind of positive environment, as well as making learning more accessible, will make healthcare a much more attractive career proposition and inspire more people to take it up. This, in turn, will help to address the staff shortage issues that we have seen, which will therefore improve these workplaces even further.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes

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