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Tips for Nursing Students Taking Online Classes

June 3, 2020 | Staff Writers

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The unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic includes widespread closures of college and university campuses. Thousands of students face class cancellations, postponements, or a transition to online instruction. The rapidly changing nature of the pandemic leaves schools scrambling to train faculty to conduct distance learning classes and meet the needs of students from underserved communities.

The delay of trained nurses entering the workforce affects everyone, particularly amid an outbreak with a shortage of medical staff.

The disruption to traditional education could last until the end of the academic year — or even longer. Nursing students experience an additional disadvantage in the inability to complete on-site lab work and clinical rotations, which can affect their graduation timelines. The delay of trained nurses entering the workforce affects everyone, particularly amid an outbreak with a shortage of medical staff.

However, there is some good news. California nursing schools already use simulation labs to provide clinical experiences, in which students practice their skills on realistic robotic dummies, and this practice could spread across the country. Additionally, many nursing schools offer existing online programs developed before the current coronavirus crisis.

This page provides guidance to nursing students transitioning to online education, with tips on making the switch easier and stress-free.

Adjusting to an Online School Format

1. Schedule Classwork and Other Activities

Those unaccustomed to working at home may find themselves distracted by dirty laundry and dishes or other household members. Making a schedule that outlines school time, chore time, and relaxation/social time can help. To-do apps like TickTick and Todoist allow you to set and track deadlines for work- and school-related projects as well as personal tasks, and can help add more structure to your day-to-day routine. Many of these types of apps offer free versions, and allow users to sync across multiple platforms.

2. Go Outside

Even communities with “shelter in place” restrictions currently allow for solo time outdoors. Getting out for a walk, run, or bike ride can keep you sane and focused. It’s also important to use your outdoors time to get some exercise and stay active, since many gyms and rec centers have closed.

3. Avoid Distractions

In these stressful times, many people tune in to cable news, online news outlets, and social media for the latest pandemic news. While it’s good to stay informed, decreasing your exposure can reduce anxiety and help you stay on track. Experts suggest limiting your news intake to specific times of the day, and to follow it up with a positive activity (like time outdoors) to boost your endorphins. Decluttering your desk or workspace can help relieve you of some stress and increase overall productivity. If you’re truly not able to pull yourself away from social media, phone apps like Flipd and Moment can help you unplug by setting daily limits and even locking you out of your phone for specific periods of time.

4. Stay in Touch

Make an effort to set up times for phone calls or video chats with classmates to discuss school assignments, keep each other motivated, or just vent. Outside of the go-tos like Skype, FaceTime, or group messaging, project management apps like Trello and G Suite allow for real-time collaboration on team projects. Other tools like Doodle are helpful for scheduling meeting times with multiple people. The effects of extended isolation are affecting all of us, so checking in with each other benefits everyone.

5. Communicate With Your Professors

As with classmates, you should stay in contact with your instructors. Some may hold virtual office hours, and all professors can be reached via email, phone, or chat rooms. Keep in mind, however, that with the hasty transition to online learning, many teachers might feel underprepared or overwhelmed in the new online environment as well. Practice patience and compassion during what may be a very stressful time for a new online instructor. Try reaching out to a fellow classmate first if you think they might be able to answer your questions.

6. Save Work to Your Hard Drive

Assignments posted online can sometimes disappear, whether through network issues or other glitches. Keep a copy of your work in a hard-drive-based document just in case.

7. Monitor Exam Deadlines

Keep on top of dates for exams and other important events, as many have been cancelled or pushed back as a result of recent school and business closures. For example, any NCLEX exam appointments scheduled between March 17 to April 16 have been unscheduled, with the Authorization to Test (ATT) extended for another six months. Keep track of shifting deadlines using calendar apps. For more information regarding NCLEX exam dates affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) website.

Resources for Online Nursing Students

The links below lead to online resources covering NCLEX preparation, scholarships and grants, and licensing requirements for different U.S. states. Studying from home can make you feel isolated, but you can use the time saved not commuting to and from school to fully prepare for your future.


Online Research Guide


10 Online Classes You Can Expect to Take for Nursing


6 Things to Know About the NCLEX Examination


How to Master NCLEX-Style Test Questions


Scholarships and Grants for Nursing Students


RN Requirements By State


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