Health Sciences division adjusts to online learning

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Like other divisions at Delta College, the Health Sciences division has had to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to offer its education and other services remotely.

Despite transitioning to online learning during a global pandemic, Delta College’s Health Sciences division has managed to keep students on track with their education, hold its enrollment numbers and even open a new campus health center.

“It’s been a challenge, but faculty have done a great job of transitioning their courses to an all online platform,” said Lisa Lucchesi, director of Health Sciences.

New Health Center

Delta College launched its first-ever health center on Oct. 21 with a flu shot clinic.

“This is the first health center that has been on Delta’s campus so we’re extremely excited about this opportunity,” said Lucchesi.

The center is operated by Community Medical Centers (CMC), a network of neighborhood health centers providing care to patients in San Joaquin, Yolo and Solano counties.

With students having access to healthcare on campus, Lucchesi is optimistic that Delta College’s partnership with CMC in establishing the center will help students in achieving academic success.

“Students will have access to care and we hope that it’s going to help students be more successful if they can be more healthy,” said Lucchesi.

The cost of treatment will vary depending on income and insurance coverage, according to the center’s page on Delta College’s website.

Insurance plans accepted by the student health center include the following:

  • Medi-Cal
  • Health Plan of San Joaquin (HPSJ)
  • HealthNet
  • Medicare and Medicare Advantage
  • Covered California
  • Limited private insurance plans

The center will also provide opportunities for students in the Health Sciences division.

It will be run by CMC staff and students will also have the chance of gaining clinical experience on campus.

“In some cases we will have some of our students assisting in care,” said Lucchesi. “We currently have psychiatric students at CMC facilities, hopefully in the future they’ll be able to be on campus.”

Currently the student health center is only available virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic and will open on campus once the impact of the virus has diminished.

For more information, visit deltacollege.edu/healthcenter

Enrollment and Online Teaching

Programs within the Health Sciences division have kept usual enrollment numbers despite the pandemic. An example of this is the general health science classes in which students filled a total of 871 out of 1092 available seats, this according to the seating numbers in the MyDelta Portal. 

“For a majority of the health science classes, enrollment has remained pretty much the same,” said Lucchesi. “Our general health science classes such as human development, medical terminology and pharmacology classes have remained unchanged.”

The Registered Nursing and Psychiatric Technician (PT) programs have also maintained their enrollment numbers.

“Our nursing program has pretty much remained the same, along with our psychiatric technician program have also remained the same,” said Lucchesi.

Lucchesi said the switchover wasn’t too difficult for faculty given that they’re already familiar with using the online platform.

“Many of our nursing and psychiatric technician faculty were already using the Canvas platform before the crisis, but they have worked extremely hard to improve all of their courses to ensure students get a great experience,” said Lucchesi. “It’s a challenge in our field because most of what we do is hands-on.” 

Facilitating the learning experience for students on a virtual platform has proved to be a challenge for faculty members in this field.

Nursing instructor Amanda Lee says students are having to divide their attention between lectures and other responsibilities, and this is prompting her to try to facilitate communication and learning for the students as much as she possibly can.

“The component that seems to stretch my creative neurons most frequently is that I intentionally prompt and facilitate opportunities for students to engage and communicate in the virtual setting,” said Lee. “I’ve experienced that students are multitasking and have a multitude of personal and professional responsibilities or distractions competing for their time.”

Lee had to get creative in introducing learning strategies to make sure students get the best experience out of a virtual setting in this field and improvise how she teaches her material through virtual platforms.

“Remote learning strategies my co-lead and I have introduced or enhanced include simulation, synchronous and asynchronous virtual lectures, do-anywhere assignments and software that allows students to collaborate as a group, upload their projects to a web-based program and still receive detailed and individualized feedback from faculty just from a distance,” said Lee.

Student Clinical Experience

 An additional obstacle has been added for students who are obtaining field experience at clinics.

Lucchesi says even though the pandemic is another hurdle to overcome, it has also provided the Health Sciences division with a learning experience for how it could manage itself in the next several years.

“It has been a very unique situation to manage students during a crisis,” said Lucchesi. “It’s required us to be exceptionally flexible to the situation. It will give us new perspectives on how to run programs in the future. As a result of this situation, I hope that we will have many lessons on how to plan and have alternative plans.”

Not all clinical programs in the Health Sciences division managed to adjust to the pandemic.

While Registered Nursing and PT continue to operate as usual, the same cannot be said for the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program.

“The only area that we are not running is our CNA program,” said Lucchesi. “Currently our skilled nursing facilities in the area have not allowed students back in due to COVID. Until those facilities are comfortable, we can’t send our students to these facilities. Right now this is preventing additional students from enrolling into the CNA program.”

Despite this setback, nursing students are able to continue clinical rotations in other areas of the field with support from local clinics and hospitals to help students continue gaining experience at clinics.

“While the pandemic initially created restrictions that did not allow our students to participate in clinical, our hospitals, community medical centers, mental health facilities, child and adolescent programs and other health care providers were in regular communication with our program in order to create safe and effective strategies that would allow our students to return as soon as possible,” said Lee.