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Washington nursing students adapt to online learning during coronavirus pandemic

It's the new normal as schools in Washington have turned to online learning and that's no different for nursing students.

SEATTLE — As nurses and other medical professionals fight the coronavirus, the next generation of medical personnel is taking their preparation online. It's the new normal as schools in Washington have turned to online learning and that's no different for nursing students.  

April Ambalina's Seattle apartment has turned into a teaching lab. The Bellevue College Nursing instructor moved her classes online shortly after the coronavirus began making headlines just one town over in Kirkland.

“I think we need more nurses right now on the frontlines especially in this crisis so being able to offer remote instruction and giving these excellent labs and the ability to still practice their hands-on skill at home will be so valuable for them once they enter the workforce,” Ambalina said.  

One of those students is Berit Koltveit, who is a nursing assistant working on her dream of becoming a nurse herself. It's something she says she feared wouldn't happen when the virus hit. 

“There were times where I thought if this hiccups to the fall or further – I might have to step back and say ‘this was a dream, but I tried and COVID got in the way,’” Koltveit said. 

But pausing Koltveit's education and hundreds of other nurses just wasn't an option, so nursing schools across the state are working to move classes online. 

The University of Washington has nursing students taking calls from a county hotline about the coronavirus, just to keep them engaged and moving toward their graduation date. 

“I have decided that my work with nursing faculty and students is really going to be a big impact in the end, that we are going to be able to still progress them and have 200 nurses at the end of September potentially,” Ambalina said.  

But the change to remote learning for nurses has taken some creativity, Ambalina says. For instance, students are having to do things like use a makeshift patient made from a towel and a paper plate to practice an emergency procedure. 

“The train seems to be chugging along maybe on a different track but chugging none the less," said Koltveit about moving to online learning.

It's a train that will likely very soon take Koltveit and her fellow nursing students to the frontline of our healthcare system.

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