“There are silver linings in these challenging times if we take the time to notice. These innovative and creative teaching strategies can be real game changers for nursing education well into the future, and we want Carolina Nursing to take the lead on that.”

Q&A with Dr. Carol Durham, EDD, RN, ANEF, FSSH, FAAN, who directs the School’s simulation and interprofessional education programs and is the past president of the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning (INACSL). We spoke with her recently about the dramatic changes to education brought on by the global pandemic.

How has COVID-19 impacted “hands-on” nursing education at the School?

In a word, tremendously.

For one, as the disease spread and local area clinics and hospitals responded, our usual sites where students could interact and practice on real patients were closed to us, of course. This meant that all skills learning was moved to simulation, which we typically do in labs within the School — on mannequins or with other tools that groups of students can work on together under the guidance of a faculty or staff member. But as the University shut down in-person classes, those learning experiences had to change to virtual ones that could be done by the students from the safety of their homes.

Needless to say, we had to adapt quickly and creatively — we owed it to the education of our students, and to the patients they are eager to serve.

What are the plans for virtual simulation?

Thanks to longevity in this role and the incredible reputation of the School, we have a vast network of industry partners who jumped in to help us by getting the latest virtual tools in our hands as quickly as possible — really exciting practice tools that have already improved our students’ confidence in such areas as clinical reasoning and interviewing skills. Students receive a wide range of experiences with virtual patients — from those dealing with mental health challenges to scenarios surrounding maternal care and pediatrics.

Additionally, we’ve been able to collect models, equipment and supplies to enable students to practice health assessment and foundational skills at home with the tele-guidance of faculty. UNC’s Student Stores has been tremendous in helping us ship these items free of charge to students — a big shout-out to them for that! This virtual world is exciting, but it is expensive, so finding ways to handle the costs of remote education is one of the big challenges we’re facing.

That said, there are many silver linings in these challenging times if we take the time to notice. These innovative and creative teaching strategies can be real game changers for nursing education well into the future, and we want Carolina Nursing to take the lead on that.

What have you learned through this crisis?

Like nurses in general, our faculty and staff can really turn on the genius when the going gets tough. The creativity and ingenuity here have been truly inspiring.

Our leadership has welcomed solution generation and problem solving from all quarters, and I can’t thank my team enough for their absolute dedication to ensuring we prepare —at whatever distance is required — the very best nurses available to serve, treat and heal the people of North Carolina and our neighbors around the globe.


Can you help Carolina Nursing cover the costs of virtual teaching? Every gift helps!

Make your gift to the EISLE Virtual Learning Fund