Program Partnership Leads DIY Training Kit for Nursing Students during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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

Last year, when students in the practical nursing program at Meridian Technology Center learned there might be more at-home learning in store, Program Coordinator Dolores Cotton, MS, RN relied on innovation that would enable her students to practice their skills, even if they didn’t have access to the school’s laboratories or actual patients.

Innovation is one of Meridian’s six core values. The integration of new ideas with courage is an integral part of the school’s guiding philosophy. Last year as the COVID-19 pandemic loomed on, instructors like Ms. Cotton led the way when they began to develop innovative, alternative learning plans.

Ms. Cotton, a veteran educator and former nurse, knew that the healthcare crisis had the protentional to severely limit her students’ abilities to work in clinical settings to get hands-on experience. Rather than focus on what her students weren’t able to do, Ms. Cotton and her team began to focus on what they could do to ensure students had the skills they needed for the workplace.

“If we ended up having to go virtual, the idea was that the student would already have a training box so they could practice their skills at home,” she explained.

The box, similar in size to a shoebox, was outfitted with a mannequin face, a built-in hole for a tracheostomy, wound care and injection pads, a nasogastric tube insertion area, a female catheter tube area, and an ostomy bag.

The cost associated with providing each student with a tracheostomy tube almost put an end to the project. The cheapest she could find were more than $70 each. Unsure of what to do, she approached her supervisor for direction. Together, they realized that the answer might not be purchasing the tool – it might be in getting it produced in-house.

Meridian Technology Center is a career training center in Stillwater, Oklahoma that provides hands-on training in more than 20 different career areas. One of them is Computer Aided Drafting. Students in this program specialize in the critical link between innovation and product development.

Ms. Cotton provided a sample of the tool she needed, and students went to work on creating a detailed design that could be produced on a 3D printer.

“We took and measured it all out, and we replicated it exactly the way that it was,” described Meridian Computer Aided Drafting instructor Russell Frick. “Through measuring it with micrometers and dicopaltors, we were able to design and print exactly what our nursing students needed.”

CAD students produced 15 tubes, saving the school more than $1,000 on the project. Cotton and Frick agree that the collaboration benefitted students in both programs.

“It was a great project. The students learned quite a bit from it,” Frick said. “The client interaction was something that I really wanted the student to focus on. Communication is just as much of a critical skill needed for this industry as technical knowledge. This was a great exercise in being able to communicate with a prospective client—in this case, it just happened to be the practical nursing Program Coordinator.”

Students at Meridian have returned to in-person training for the 2021‒2022 school year. While the pandemic is far from over, Ms. Cotton said students are still using the DIY skills boxes.

“When students want or need additional skill mastery, they can check out one of these boxes and take it home,” Cotton said. “Now, if we need to transition to virtual learning, we’re set.”

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.