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Health Care Education in a Virtual World

For future health care providers, moving education online has proved especially challenging. With ingenuity and creativity, faculty are helping them continue gaining the skills they’ll need.

Uncertainty abounds when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. While health care workers are providing essential services and being lauded as heroes, students aspiring to join them have suddenly found themselves at a distance from the clinics in which they typically hone their skills. Certain aspects of their career development, like national licensing exams, are out of the University’s control. But in Penn’s School of Nursing, Perelman School of Medicine, School of Dental Medicine, and School of Veterinary Medicine, faculty charged with educating future caregivers have had to reinvent curricula, evaluate new pedagogical tools, and work with students one on one to ensure they’re getting the education they need to graduate and serve. 

From fourth-year veterinary students on the cusp of entering practice to first-year medical students whose hands-on pathology lectures have now become virtual and every student in between, clinicians-in-training are confronting a difficult and difficult to predict future.

“I think the school has done a very good job of making this transition, especially considering how fast it had to be made,” says Noa Erlitzki, a first year M.D./Ph.D. student. “There are bumps in the road, but there are fewer than I would have expected.”

Hands-on to hands off

At universities around the globe, course dynamics has changed from going online, but the task of providing health care education into a virtual world comes with unique drawbacks. 

“We are used to being hands-on because that’s what we do,” says Julie Sochalski, associate dean for academic programs at the School of Nursing. “All of us are in a profession where we are managing health conditions and providing care for those who are trying to get back to that state of health. It’s been a 180 for us to train for that when we don’t have that human contact.”

Penn’s health schools pride themselves on giving students early exposure to clinical experiences although students still toward the early stages of their education, in their first or second year, are still largely receiving core content, making it somewhat more straightforward to deliver online.

This is an excerpt from a story that was originally published on Penn Today. It was written by Science News Officer Katherine Unger Baillie. Click here to read the entire version.