How Do Online Nursing Students Complete Clinicals?

For many Registered Nurses (RN) across the county, obtaining their Bachelor of Science in Nursing and completing clinical courses while working full-time as a nurse can prove challenging. As a result, many RNs are turning to online programs to earn their BSN degree. While the number of online nursing programs is expanding, not all online programs are created equally or offer cutting-edge resources. Thankfully, students earning their BSN via the University of Florida Online can rest assured that they’re joining a top-ranked nursing education taught by the University of Florida’s College of Nursing.

This program is designed for working RNs and can be completed fully online in five semesters while attending as a part-time student. Nurses admitted to UF Online’s RN to BSN program must already have their associate’s degree and meet other important admissions requirements.

So, how do RNs complete their clinical courses online?

Providing BSN Students with Quality Digital Clinicals at UF

For almost a decade, UF’s College of Nursing has worked with Shadow Health, a healthcare simulation company, to bring quality digital clinical experiences to UF bachelor’s and master’s nursing degree students.

Dr. Jane Gannon, Assistant Dean of Simulation Based Learning at UF’s College of Nursing, oversees this association with Shadow Health and has been at the frontlines of digital clinicals since UF started implementing them. While Shadow Health is affiliated with over 1,800 schools across the nation, their facility is located in Gainesville, FL, making them neighbors to UF’s main campus.

With the help of the simulation technology, RN to BSN students pursue their clinical requirements in a fully online format, gaining key skills such as data gathering and interpretation that they will apply in their careers.

“Being able to deliver an assessment course in an online environment is really critical, and this particular product helps us replicate in an online environment what we would actually be doing in the lab,” Dr. Gannon stated.

How Do Online Clinicals Work?

When you visit a clinic or hospital, nurses play a critical role in welcoming you and asking about symptoms to come to a proper diagnosis. To best help patients, nurses receive extensive training on this intake process. This includes knowing what questions to ask and how to ask them to best collect all the relevant information needed to interpret the patient’s answers.

To best learn these skills, RN to BSN students use this simulation tool to interact with and examine virtual patients. One of the two clinical courses that students complete is a health assessment course known as Clinical Reasoning. In this course, RNs meet a virtual patient named Tina Jones, who has been hospitalized with an array of health issues ranging from respiratory problems to physical injury. Students then must assess Tina’s condition, perform an examination, and overall, improve their patient examination and communication skills. By the end of the semester, these students will have spent a total of 15 clinical hours assessing patients, and much of that time is spent in the interview and assessment process.

Dr. Gannon believes these interactive simulations are essential for students to further gain interview skills that stem from clinical reasoning and critical thinking. In fact, examining a virtual patient with symptoms similar to those encountered in a clinical setting offers unique benefits compared to examining a healthy classmate as you would in a classroom environment.

“From my perspective, Shadow Health actually helps our students become better interviewers because it teaches them to not overwhelm a patient with a bunch of ands, ors, ins, or buts,” Dr. Gannon said. “Instead, it teaches them to ask one question and move on to the next.”

How UF Emphasizes the Importance of Patient Empathy and Meaningful Communication Skills Through Virtual Clinicals

An effective nurse not only must understand the science of patient care, but also the critical role of listening, empathy, and effective communication. Through interactive simulations, UF students are able to learn and practice the characteristics of quality bedside care by providing empathetic statements and health education tips to the patient.

These simulations have many advanced features that allow for a deeper and more enriching patient examination process. Students can use a microphone to speak to the virtual patient, and the virtual patient will respond based on the question asked. Students will also need to leverage health education strategies when communicating with the virtual patient. By requiring empathetic responses for some virtual tasks, students develop a better understanding of when and how to utilize empathetic strategies in patient examinations.

To reinforce the important role of communication in a clinical setting, nursing students also participate in interactive simulations with virtual colleagues. One example is a hallway exercise in the simulation where the student communicates their patient findings to another health professional. “The goal of these exercises is to help students feel confident in their ability to convey a coherent message to someone else,” Dr. Gannon added.

A Remarkable Digital Clinical Experience from a Top University

As one of the top universities in the country, the University of Florida is experienced in educating and supporting nursing students that are committed to unparalleled patient care. Founded in 1956, the UF College of Nursing brings a long legacy of academic and research excellence to bear in the modern realm of patient care via UF Online. In this fully online RN to BSN program, the college has intentionally designed a smart blend of rigorous coursework with this fully interactive online clinical to reinforce the importance of patient communication and engagement. By bringing this training online, the UF College of Nursing brings its legacy within reach of so many more RNs that are seeking a fully-online BSN program.

Apply for UF Online’s RN to BSN Program

Are you ready to take your nursing career to the next level with a BSN degree? With so many opportunities for success in the nursing profession, there is no limit to what you can achieve. Now is the time to continue your education with a BSN from the University of Florida. Accepting applications just once a year, this program is also proud to be a cohort model where nurses learn together as a team. The next application deadline for UF RN to BSN available via UF Online is August 29th to start the program in Spring 2023. Apply now to begin your journey to becoming a BSN Gator nurse.