Jessica Haynes Barre ’11
As a nursing instructor, COVID-19 caused a major change in routine for me. Typically, I teach in a face-to-face environment on campus. At a moment’s notice, we were forced to move entire courses, including clinical hours, to an online environment.
Can you describe the current situation in your workplace?
Since COVID-19 required shut-downs of in-person environments, the change required me to learn how to teach online immediately. Online communication platforms suddenly became a necessity. I learned how to use an online testing program that video records students while taking exams. The hardest challenge that came with this change was being able to interact with students. Usually, when a student has a question in class, he/she raises his/her hand, and we discuss the question. However, in the online environment, I’m unable to see all students’ faces at the same time. So it was very difficult to know when someone had a question, needed further explanation, or when the class needed a break.
While this change was very challenging for me, I think it was much worse for students. Technology can be a great resource, but it can also be draining. After a few weeks of online learning, I could tell that students were not as engaged with the course or material as much as they were before going online. It was difficult for them to stay motivated to succeed. Unfortunately, many students experienced wifi challenges, as the community had just suffered a tornado with substantive damages the week before COVID-19 caused closures. I had some students who experienced difficulty logging into to take an online exam, which caused additional stress to the typical exam anxiety that many students experience.
I also teach health assessment labs, where students learn how to perform physical exams and practice these exams on lab partners. Unfortunately, the transition online left many students without a lab partner during lab time. Adaptation was key for success.
Additionally, students had to transition into online clinical learning environments. Unfortunately, an effective online learning environment as a replacement to in-person clinical settings is extremely difficult to implement. Rather than having my clinical instructors teaching students in the hospital setting, I had to find and create online clinical learning scenarios. Talk about a big task to do in a very small amount of time! Students struggled to engage with an online clinical setting. It was not the same as providing hands-on patient care, but they persisted. Thanks to their ambition, learning did occur, despite overwhelming circumstances.
Currently, I am waiting to learn what my employing university will do regarding fall semester and COVID-19. For the students’ and teachers’ mental health states, I hope that we can be on campus again. However, for everyone’s physical safety, I hope that we can maintain safe distances.
What have the last few weeks been like, in your own words?
The last few weeks have been a learning curve! While these changes were challenging to implement and master, it is encouraging to know what one can do when pressure is applied!
How has your home or personal life been affected by the pandemic?
I teach in a nursing program full-time, and I am also a full-time student, working on a PhD of Nursing degree. Trying to transition classes and clinical settings online, along with staying engaged with my course load in the courses that I am taking, required a significant amount of time and effort. My husband is also in graduate school, along with working full-time. Although my husband and I were both working from home, we did not see each other unless we were eating dinner due to demanding changes in our jobs and school routines. It was mentally and physically exhausting.
How did Auburn prepare you for your current role?
While at Auburn, I thought the nursing courses were the biggest challenges that I had ever faced. Looking back, I am actually so thankful that the nursing courses were as challenging as they were. Had I not learned how to study and persist despite difficulty then, I would not be successful in maintaining my perseverance today.
How do you stay positive during these difficult times?
It has been a challenge for many people to stay positive during these difficult times! I have found that taking thirty minutes everyday to do something I enjoy has helped me stay positive. Whether it’s taking a short walk through the neighborhood or just sitting outside on the porch, the power of a mental break cannot be overrated.