Nursing students face unexpected lessons during pandemic

By | 2020-04-29T12:12:13-04:00 April 10th, 2020|5 Comments

The COVID-19 pandemic had affected all aspects of life. Nursing students, you are all too familiar with the impact this virus has had on your education.

This effect is unmistakably evident in canceled classes, canceled graduations and the switch to online courses. By now, you are probably becoming quite skilled in using online course software programs such as GoToMeeting and E-Lectures.

The clinical component of your nursing education is perhaps most affected by the pandemic. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s March 20, “Considerations for COVID-19 Preparedness and Response in U.S. Schools of Nursing” suggests continuing clinical placements needs to be decided based on a school’s policies and the facilities in which students have their clinical placements.

The National League for Nursing’s March 10, 2020, letter to nursing educators emphasized the same approach.

With the additional recommendations from the AACN and the NLN, some nursing students may still be in a clinical placement. Others may be in simulated labs or using telehealth options, while others are providing patient care through virtual reality.

Regardless of how you are faring with the interruptions in your educational program, your disappointments in not progressing toward reaching your goals to graduate, become licensed and beginning your nursing practice is disappointing at best, despite knowing others are suffering even more adversities, including death.

There is hope out there as changes are being made that will help alleviate, to a certain degree, some of the disruptions.

What’s on the horizon for nursing students?

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing announced NCLEX testing is beginning again in a limited capacity. Click here for more information and register to take the exam.

For Texas graduate nurses and graduate vocational nurses, the governor extended the temporary authorization to practice/temporary permits for graduate nurses and graduate vocational nurses to 6 months from 75 days. The expansion allows nurse graduates to continue to practice until they can take the licensing exam. Additional details can be found on the board’s website.

Changes will come, albeit slowly and not always directly affecting your specific educational situation. So, how can nursing students best cope with these distressing times and the interruption in your nursing education? Here are some tips: 

  • Follow CDC guidelines and your state mandates concerning hand washing, social distancing, and stay-at home orders unless travel/work is essential
  • Be certain to care for yourself generally and if you’re exhibiting symptoms
  • Get tested as soon as you can and follow medical advice
  • Although there is much talk about care resources being scarce and the potential difficulty to be hospitalized if you need it, keep your health insurance in full force
  • If you can volunteer in a health facility that allows student nurses to provide care, do so, but follow its policy and protocols, so you can contribute to the care of those who desperately need knowledgeable and compassionate care.
  • If you are volunteering and providing care in any manner, be certain to use whatever PPE is required.
  • Review your professional liability insurance policy and its provisions concerning volunteering as a student nurse.
  • Continue to participate in your school’s online courses and continue your educational program as much as possible during the pandemic.
  • Volunteer in ways not directly associated with your nursing educational program. For instance, a group of UW-Madison School of Nursing students arranged to watch children of healthcare workers so they could continue caring for patients.
  • Keep in touch with your educational program in order to be updated with any developments and stay in contact with your fellow nursing students via Skype, FaceTime, etc.

Adjustments will most likely continue to be made during the pandemic to nursing students’ current educational and licensure requirements — by your school, by testing organizations, by your state board of nursing — that will help reach your goals of graduation, licensure and practice.

In the words of David G. Allen, “Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.”


COVID-19 coronavirus

About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Our legal information columnist Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation, and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 40 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. Her posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. 


  1. Avatar
    Whyte April 23, 2020 at 4:53 am - Reply

    Am very pleased with your piece of advice and information.
    Am a leader of a nursing institution and I want your advice on how to help my student in these perilous times. I need ideas and ways to engage them to make our skills and presence felt
    Thank you

  2. Avatar
    mahmooda razzaque April 25, 2020 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    its amazing information and fact that you have shared and raised voice of nursing students.

  3. Avatar
    Cindy April 26, 2020 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    It would be so nice to focus on lpn to rn. We have lots of clinical experience. New full online programs would be amazing

  4. Avatar
    April Dawson May 5, 2020 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    My daughter is a first year nursing student at a College in Bluefield, WV. Online nursing has posed a huge challenge, and many students have ended up having to drop. They are tested on material they aren’t familiar with. They aren’t lectured on much of the material, and they are pretty much teaching themselves nursing. They are only graded on tests and quizzes and most are doing terrible on the tests because they have no idea what the questions are asking. The instructor fears they will cheat, although the tests are proctored, but the instructors have made their own tests, which is fine, but they change the words around to prevent googling (which they couldn’t google if they wanted because their hands have to remain in the screen’s view) For example, a side effect was papillary edema, but the instructor changed it to retinopathy. If you studied papillary edema and have no idea what retinopathy is, there is a slim chance the student will choose the correct answer. The instructor changed “open fracture” to “compound fracture”, however the students didn’t know they were the same thing, because they don’t know that open fracture is a compound fracture, and compound fracture wasn’t mentioned in their book. One of their finals was Monday, and it consisted of over 40 chapters, with absolutely no study guide and nothing to focus on. Much of the material was gibberish. Finals are usually cumulative questions that they are familiar with, and they were told they would be cumulative questions until until the day before the test, leaving them to somehow try and memorize 40 chapters. My daughter wrote down several questions after the test so they would be fresh in her mind, and she looked them up in the book. One of them asked about what a post op complication would be. In the book, the complications were listed as hemorrhage and perforation. Two of the choices on the test were hemorrhage and perforation, and they could only choose one. The question did not ask for the most common, it asked for “a post op complication”. Chances are, if they don’t pick the complication the instructor thinks is the most common, they will get it wrong. They will not know their grade until next Monday when it is sent to the registrars office, so they will not be able to have their grades adjusted in case there was instructors error. They will not be able to review the test until start of the next semester, so if they fail, they aren’t even given the option to challenge anything. They have went to the Dean of nursing, spoke to the professors, and even went to the president of the college for help, and there is nothing they can do. They have pretty much been told “it is what it is”. About 3/4 think they failed the final, and half of those will not have a high enough grade to continue in the program, but if they could challenge the questions, they feel many of them would have to be given credit for. If anyone knows of legal route they can take, would you please let me know. Quarantine isn’t their fault, yet they are paying an enormous price for it…… most of them an entire years tuition.

    • Heather Cygan
      Heather Cygan May 6, 2020 at 8:36 am - Reply

      Hi April, You might want to talk to a legal nurse attorney. You can find one here:

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