Falling Back into Classes

It’s that time of year. Time to get ready and set for the beginning of a fresh academic calendar. The weather is about to turn cooler as we head into the fall season. Fall means the start of all things new as a student. As the educator it means new faces, new opportunities, and new experiences. But this fall we face another set of “firsts” in the midst of COVID-19. Many educators will be transitioning into virtual classrooms rather than our familiar face-to-face setting. We will alter clinical experiences and increase simulation lab experiences. We will convert 15-week courses to 8-week courses to streamline virtual learning options. The educator is faced with adjusting to changing times. Something we as nurses know all so well.

At the outset of a new semester, I always get excited to meet my students. To put a face with a name and get to know each one of them. In my opinion, the educator-learner relationship helps propel the learning experience. For this reason, I have trained myself to adapt over the first several weeks as I get to know them on an individual level. The excitement of week one stems from the unknown. I feel this can be compared to the role of the bedside nurse. You come in for your shift, not knowing who you will care for or what your day will look like. It becomes part of who we are as a nurse. We also train ourselves to expect the unexpected. How do you prepare for a cohort that you do not yet know? In short you prepare for a variety of learners and learning styles. This preparation does not take place the day before the semester starts. Hours of planning goes into the educator preparing for Fall. As the nurse educator we plan for didactic content as well as clinical and lab experiences. Part of this planning involves incorporating interactive teaching strategies such as case studies. 

Have you ever written a case study for a group of learners? I decided to write one a few years ago to include it as part of one of my post-conference discussions at the conclusion of a clinical day. I went into it thinking, “I’m going to write this up quick.” I soon realized this would not be a “quick” task. What I figured would take me about 15 minutes ended up taking almost 2 hours. I wanted to have specific details regarding the patient in the study. This included demographics, a health history, medication list, current admission diagnosis, social influences including family dynamics and living arrangement. There were many factors to include and consider and I realized I needed to include them all in order to have a functional case study. This took much more time to develop than I had thought. As we get back into a fall routine and the semester gets underway, remember that the behind the scenes work you have done will be assisting students to achieve their goals and realize their dreams. Your hard work will be engaging the minds of student nurses and propelling them toward the career they are striving to obtain.

About the Author


My name is Colleen Wiley and I am a nurse educator. Growing up I always wanted to be a teacher, but I also had an interest in learning about science. I have always loved helping people which is why I chose to pursue a career in nursing. I spent my time in undergraduate nursing school working as a nurse intern on a medical surgical unit. After graduation in 2005, I worked at the bedside caring for post-operative patients and I loved it! Eventually, I started offering to train new employees and I would also take on nursing students for their clinical preceptorship. It was then that I truly realized my real passion was seeded in becoming a nurse educator! I started working as an adjunct clinical instructor in 2010 and immediately knew this was the path for me. A fire was lit inside of me! That burning feeling of helping others was reignited as I shifted my focus from helping sick and/or recovering patients in the acute setting to helping students learn how to become a nurse. I pursued a graduate degree in nursing education which I earned in December of 2014. I have been working as a nurse educator ever since I took that first leap back in 2010.

Contact Us