LIMA — Nearly 60 nursing education students from Rhodes State College will have the option to hit the hospital floor just after graduation with the help of a new House Bill and the college’s change to virtual simulation clinical training.
Under the Coronavirus Omnibus Legislation (HB197) signed March 27, the Ohio Board of Nursing examination required to approve an RN or LPN license has been suspended during the declared national emergency. To become licensed, all nursing education students will still need to provide documentation from a completed nursing program and criminal records checks.
According to the board, this means between 4,000 and 5,000 students in the state would be eligible to obtain their licenses in the expedited process.
Eric Mason, assistant dean of health sciences/nursing at Rhodes said he is helping students with their licensure applications so they are ready to go upon graduation. To help with this influx, the board has brought on additional resources to move the licensing process as quickly as possible.
“I would say probably some time in mid-May, around that time, is when these new grads coming out of spring semester will be available,” Mason said. “They’ll be ready to go as RNs or LPNs. They’ll be temporarily permitted to do those types of activities just like any other new grad coming out of approved nursing programs.”
This readiness was originally threatened when Rhodes, along with all other schools, were forced to go to remote learning in mid-March. Rhodes decided to cancel classes on March 11, which also took graduation-bound students out of their hands-on clinical training.
Senior Caitlin Huffer had just four days of training left at Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center, where she was working one on one with nurses and shadowing them. When Huffer originally spoke with The Lima News, no plans had been released on if she would be able to complete her training.
“It’s been pretty frustrating being in this limbo state and waiting to hear day by day,” Huffer said of the time period prior to the virtual simulation being announced. “We’ve just been waiting for updates, not really knowing what will happen but hoping we’ll be able to finish.”
Huffer already has a job lined up for after graduation and won’t be able to start until she is officially licensed. Luckily, Huffer said students got the email on Tuesday explaining the plans to move forward.
”I charged the faculty last week with planning and putting together this virtual simulation, which we are allowed to do by the Board of Nursing,” Mason said. “That gives us permission to move clinical hours when necessary to lab-simulated hours. As part of that, we are going to be able to finish our students and hopefully on time without delay.”
Mason explained that moving over to the simulation format will not hinder the abilities of any of the nursing students because it will only make up that final three weeks of what they’ve been working on the full semester.
“All of these students have had many hours in the clinical environment and in the lab hands-on on campus prior to us going to the remote learning environment,” he said. “All students, whether remote or not, are required to meet the outcomes for all courses and competencies required, and in the rigor we require to do so … Yes, it is a much different type of learning environment, but with the instructors’ as well as the students’ commitment to this, we are seeing some great success with the remote learning.”
Mason said, as usual, the college is working very closely with local and regional hospitals to ensure students know of the immediate openings available.
“We regularly invite regional partners to come and speak with students,” he said. “In the partnership, it’s been a little bit enhanced in the regard that there’s probably communication more frequently than normal at this time.
“We encourage all of our students to stay within the community and support the region around us in order to provide care to our own residents,” Mason added. “I had a conversation with one of the local hospitals yesterday, and they were inquiring about our grads and we are going to be disseminating that to them to let them know what the availability for employment is.”
Reach Tara Jones at 567-242-0511.