Going Remote: Mid-Maine Tech Center Pre-Nursing Program Builds in Hands-on Learning with Virtual Learning Kits

Nursing Student Demonstrating how to put on PPE

As a nurse, Tracy Cloutier the Pre-Nursing Instructor at Mid-Maine Technical Center learned early on that you need to be flexible and be able to shift gears quickly. “Shifting between remote learning and in class environment means we have to think outside the box,” said Cloutier. “I have had to have a plan in place since the return in August and be able to switch, if necessary, quickly from one to the other.”

Like schools around Maine, Mid-Maine Technical Center has been working around the clock to plan for the possibility that they may need to deliver instruction remotely at any time, a task that comes with its own unique set of challenges because of the essential hands-on learning components in Career and Technical Education programing.

“The hardest part for me is the unknown and how quickly everything can change,” said Caitlyn Smith a senior at Waterville Senior High School. “I could go to bed one night, excited for my clinicals the next day, and wake up to be told I need to quarantine.” Caitlyn is enrolled in the pre-nursing classes at Mid-Maine Technical Center and plans to pursue a nursing degree next year at the University of New England.

“This class has been ‘rock stars’ with all the pandemic protocol has brought,” said Cloutier. “They are diligent in keeping a safe distance of 6 feet. They all wear clean scrub jackets, masks, hand wash and disinfect without question.” Cloutier adds that if they are learning in an environment that requires them to be closer than the 6 feet, they are sure to add additional layers of PPE (personal protective equipment).

Cloutier prepared from the beginning of the school year knowing that remote learning was a possibility. Like so many educators have done this year, she set a goal to get students set up with supplies for hands-on remote learning ahead of time, including making sure that each one of her students had a computer or device with an internet connection to use for remote learning.

Students were sent home with a “virtual learning” bag that offered supplies for them to participate in the hands-on procedures of lab work and complete the necessary skills from home if needed.

Below is a list of skills attainable during Remote Learning with the help of the new kits:

  • Partial bath- face and peri care
  • Foley catheter care
  • Applying nasal cannula O2
  • Simple wound care
  • Suppository application
  • Stoma care
  • Application of ostomy wafer and drainage bag, how to empty & measure output, collect stool specimen
  • Empty/ Measure urinary output from a drainage bag, collect a urine specimen and strain for calculi
  • Application of Ted stockings
  • Apply a bedpan
  • Transfer with a gait belt
  • Natural teeth care
  • Apply a brief
  • Donning and Doffing PPE- gown, gloves, mask, cap, booties, double bagging
  • Provide ADL’s for a patient with tracheostomy
  • Feed a patient with dysphagia thickened liquids, mechanical soft food, pureed food
    • nutritional supplement
    • “House” diet (regular)
  • Nail care
  • Special mouth care for an unconscious patient
  • Vital Signs (radial and apical pulse, respiration, blood pressure)

“Typically, when working in our lab we review the hands-on procedure from our textbook, I then demonstrate how to do it in the lab and then the students practice and show me in return,” describes Cloutier of her pre-pandemic classroom routine. However, when students are learning remotely, the typical in-person instruction model is not possible. With the help of a new virtual classroom program, the use of a new classroom “Owl” camera, along with their virtual learning kits, students can participate in lab activities and classroom discussion virtually.

The new system allows Cloutier to show the classroom learners at the same time as the virtual learners. The virtual learners can demonstrate their knowledge either by creating a video demonstration talking about all the steps they are doing and why, or they can take photos to show what they have learned.

“The pre-nursing class has faced challenges with having to quarantine and it’s been disappointing that we are behind on our clinical hours,” said Smith. She also said she has felt very fortunate that all of the students in her class, including her, have been provided with the take-home nursing kids to practice their skills at home when they have to quarantine.

“Being part of the Mid Maine Technical Center during this pandemic has been extremely beneficial for me,” said Smith. Thankful that she is able to focus on something that she is passionate about, Smith has kept herself motivated through her pre-nursing work knowing that it gives her something to look forward to each day. “Through it all, with the leadership of our instructor, we have stuck together like a family,” she added.

Cloutier says the silver lining in all of this is her students. “The students are fantastic and resilient young people. I am continuously amazed at their ability to adapt to changes and still stay engaged. I am so proud of them all and how much they have had to overcome and sacrifice to get their education this year and yet they are doing it, and well!”

Information and images for this story were provided by Mid-Maine Technical Center as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea, email it to Rachel at Rachel.Paling@maine.gov.