BANGOR, Maine — Beal College in Bangor has graduated two cohorts of nursing students in the past year, helping fill the nursing shortage in Maine. Hands-on experience is a critical part of any nursing program and the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted those clinical hours.
So, the college adapted. Instead of logging hours in local hospitals and primary care facilities, the nursing program switched gears to more virtual education.
Robin Tardiff works in the Student and Career Services Department at Beal College. She said finding clinical hours for students was tough in the early stages of the pandemic.
“The nurses that are in the field really needed to focus on doing their job and they didn’t really have the opportunity for clinical experiences," Tardiff added.
New virtual reality technology is now giving students that crucial simulation experience.
“Simulations are an interval part of nursing education," ADN Nursing Program Director Joesph Amoral said.
Amoral added the college is working with Elsevier to pilot its virtual reality simulation. With headsets and controls, students can learn clinical and real-world skills from the safety of the classroom.
“They can still interact with the patient and interact with all the equipment that is needed to interact with a patient," Amoral said. “It’s been very effective here.”
Also in the program, mannequins. The state of the art mannequin, named Victoria, is a live birth model but can be adjusted to other situations as well.
“The students are then able to react and make those critical thinking decisions that nurses need to do in real life," Amoral said.
This technology is not only giving students hands-on learning hours and skills, but it is also getting them prepared to hit the ground running after graduation.
“Folks can start and really help with the nursing shortage that we have in our local area, statewide," Tardiff said.