Creativity Is Key to Skills Training Amid Pandemic

Written by Cara Adney, Marketing & Media Relations Coordinator at Meridian Technology Center

When Penelope Harders and Candace Johnson left Meridian Technology Center in March 2020, the Practical Nursing students expected to see each other the week after spring break.

Because of COVID-19, one week turned into two. Then two weeks turned into three. Three weeks turned into four.

While they didn’t resume their on-campus training at Tech until June 1, the students relied heavily on their friendship and shared resources to make the school’s distance learning plan work.

Johnson quickly found out her only computer and her access to the internet, a wireless hotspot, weren’t enough to meet the technology needs for her and her two children. She was able to borrow a laptop from Tech, and Harders stepped in with a creative solution that would give both moms a place to safely study and their kids a place to play.

“At first I invited her to come to my house,” Harders explained. “Then I thought wait – she’s got two kids, and I have four. This isn’t going to work.”

Harders realized her family had access to the church where her husband is a youth leader. She contacted the church to explain the situation, and she was granted permission to turn Sunday school rooms into makeshift classrooms. Several times a week, Johnson made the 45-minute commute from her home in Pawnee to Johnson’s church in Perkins.

Since starting nursing school the previous August, juggling home, work, kids and school hasn’t been easy for the two mothers. The pandemic only made it worse. In addition to managing their remote learning requirements, each also had to facilitate distance learning for their children. This led them to focus on their training at odd hours.

“We would have conversations and study at midnight and even at 2 and 3 a.m.,” Harders recalled. “Sometimes, that was the only time we didn’t have kids running around and pets barking.”

Now that programs are back on the Meridian campus, social distancing and safety remain a priority. Rather than sitting at a table studying students are spread out. Some clinical rotations in local health care facilities were replaced with virtual training and skills demonstrations across campus. Instead of working directly with patients, Harders, Johnson and their fellow classmates distributed prescriptions of Skittles, M&M’s and Sprite to Meridian staff members for their program’s medical pass rotation component.

Dolores Cotton, the Practical Nursing program coordinator, indicated creativity was key in developing ways to teach hands-on skills while protecting students and staff.

“We feel good that we have a way to provide a positive experience for our students,” she said. “We couldn’t have done it without staff members patiently allowing us to interrupt their day.”

Written by Cara Adney, Marketing & Media Relations Coordinator at Meridian Technology Center

Cara Adney is the Marketing and Media Relations Coordinator at Meridian Technology Center. Meridian Technology Center has been a driver of economic development since 1975. With a mission to educate, enrich lives and secure economic futures, Meridian offers full-time career training programs, short courses, workforce and economic development assistance and entrepreneurial support to residents from the Agra, Carney, Glencoe, Guthrie, Morrison, Mulhall-Orlando, Pawnee, Perkins-Tryon, Perry and Stillwater school districts. Meridian is one of 29 schools within Oklahoma’s CareerTech system.