Learning at a Distance: One Student’s Experience during COVID-19

Diverse woman in blue scrubs and white coat smiling at camera

Sophomore BSN student Isha Patel chose to complete the Fall 2020 semester using a HyFlex model, which allowed her to learn both on campus and online from her home in York, PA. Other than when she would make the more than three-hour trip to Pittsburgh for her clinical training, her lectures and labs were online.

“Lectures were not that bad, but it was challenging to do lab virtually since the point of lab is to gain hands-on experience, which is difficult through a computer,” Isha explains. “With that said, I believe the School of Nursing did everything they could to safely deliver a proper education.” Labs were online, but students received physical materials to enable “hands-on” learning from a distance. “Professors would explain the how and why of performing a skill, so that when we performed our testing videos, we could do it without hesitation.” 

Because she chose to commute for most of the semester, Isha was unable to attend open labs—where students can practice skills learned in class at the Learning and Simulation Center—as often as she wanted to. So, Isha decided to try the Virtual Skills Chat (VSC).

The Duquesne University School of Nursing faculty offered VSC sessions as an additional way to help students learn during the Fall 2020 semester when COVID-19 precautions, like social distancing and smaller groups, were in place. During the VSC sessions, students could connect with faculty, ask questions, and see how particular skills are performed.

There were no other students on the chat when Isha attended, so to her, it felt like office hours, which she liked.

“It was one-on-one with the professor. I could ask as many questions as I wanted and lead the session to get what I needed,” Isha says. “We used the teach-back method for the most part. The professor would demonstrate a skill, and then I would say the step-by-step directions and explain why we do certain aspects of it. In doing so, I could see if I fully comprehended the skill lesson and if I could perform the skill with ease during my test.” 

Isha feels getting help on the virtual chat was the best decision she could have made. “It helped me better understand the skills I was performing by going through it step by step with a professor,” explains Isha. “Going to the skills chat made me more confident and comfortable in my knowledge. So, when I was performing my competency testing, I did not worry too much about what I did not know, and I passed knowing that I put all my effort in.”

Given the unusual challenges of the semester, at one point, Isha was questioning herself and what she knew. She found support from her professors.

“They were always offering their help and support and being understanding of certain situations. With an ongoing pandemic, that is exactly what I needed to get through this past semester without difficulty,” Isha says. “My lab professor told my class something that also helped me get through the semester as well as this pandemic. She said, ‘Just as the world is falling apart, we (as student nurses) are learning to save it.’ And I can never forget those wise words because it helped me realize all along why I chose to become a nurse, to help save lives.”

Get to Know Isha Patel

Diverse young woman smiling at camera. Outside in a park.

Isha Patel is a sophomore student in the Duquesne University School of Nursing. Isha wants to become a nurse because she’s always had a love and passion for the medical field and nursing suits her best because it offers a wide variety of career paths, as well as work-life balance. As Isha puts it, “I get to help patients who put their life in my hands, and I can still have the personal life that I want in my future.”

Isha chose to attend Duquesne for its nursing program and its location. “I have always wanted to live in the city, but I did not want the city to be my campus, so Duquesne offered me the chance at having both.” 

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