Sumner College nursing students shift to online learning

Coronavirus

"This has been a big transition for us"

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon’s largest nursing school welcomes the biggest incoming class in its history this week — and they’ll be learning about nursing in a unique new way that is almost entirely online.

Before the pandemic, 100% of learning to be a nurse was done in person. Now, almost all of it has been shifted to more of an online format as Sumner College tries to turn out nursing professionals and medical assistants here in an area of the country that has had a shortage of nurses for a long time.

It’s called the patient lab, located upstairs at Sumner College’s nursing campus near the Portland airport. It was and still is the hands-on, real-time simulation of learning and caring about patients and their needs. But what next week’s incoming class of 125 nursing students will see more of is a nursing curriculum almost entirely online.

“This has been a big transition for us from 100% on campus to 100% online with the exceptions of skills labs,” Sumner College President Joanna Russell said. “It took a lot of work for us to get there but it’s really been effective for us to do in such a short amount of time.”

The virus has prompted many more people to live and work from home and learning to be a nurse will be no exception. When they do come to the skills labs on campus, there will be a much more favorable student-teacher ratio than in the past. 

“Our groups used to be a 12:1 ratio and now we’re at a 3:1 ratio or a 6:1 ratio depending on what we’re teaching for the day. Our skills lab, as far as open lab, is one on one — one instructor and one student at a time,” Russell said.

The smaller skills lab class sizes are a response to the need for more physical distancing and less people in the same space — its the silver lining of the pandemic that’s created room for more direct interaction with a nursing instructor. 

There is still a big demand for nurses and not enough people to fill those jobs. The curriculum for a RN is about two years, but LPN licensed practical nurse or medical assistant less time.

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