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Dan: Adapting to online nursing studies on a TAFE to university pathway

After finishing his Diploma of Nursing at TAFE SA in 2019, Dan’s study pathway has seen him moving into the second year of a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of South Australia in 2020. Though he felt prepared to make the transition from TAFE to university, COVID-19 has impacted his first semester at university.

We spoke to Dan about how he’s managed the move to online study and how the pandemic has changed the delivery of clinical skills workshops.

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Tell us about your TAFE SA study pathway.

I enrolled in a Diploma of Nursing, which is an 18-month course. Doing that course meant I could move directly into the second year of a Bachelor of Nursing at university. I’m now working towards becoming a registered nurse.

What did you like about studying at TAFE SA?

I really enjoyed it. The classes are small, so you feel like you’re listened to, and you can easily get the attention of the lecturer. I also had to do placements as part of my course, organised by TAFE SA. I had really good placements at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and at Yatala Labour Prison. My placements gave me practical insights and experiences, especially in mental health, which helped me to get my nursing job. Because I’ve finished my diploma, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) recognises me as an enrolled nurse.

How did it feel to be settling into university life as the pandemic began to grow?

At first, I felt fine. I’d already been studying in Adelaide at TAFE SA. And as an ambassador at StudyAdelaide, I knew what to expect as I made the transition from TAFE to university. I felt prepared until the pandemic hit.

It was a bit of a struggle when we had to go off-campus. I’m a visual learner. I like being able to see my lecturer and asking questions in person, not over Zoom. Attending class online is completely different. If you need help in class, you can just speak up, but when you’re online, you have to type it out in a chat or email the lecturer. But I did get used to it by the end of the semester.

Did you feel your university supported you with your online studies?

I did feel supported. Leaving TAFE and going to university is entirely different. They have a course which helps working nurses get their head around studying at university. I also have really good tutors. They answered all my emails and questions in the discussion boards quite well. And we have a good batch of peers to communicate with, so we’ve been able to study together online.

Usually, we’d have clinical skills practicals every week, but because of COVID-19, they were all cancelled. We had to do an intensive 6-hour day at the end of the semester to catch up, which was a lot of information to grasp in one day. Because I’m already working as an enrolled nurse, I do get to see nursing practice in my job.

What does study in semester two look like?

We’re partially back on campus. Our tutorials and lectures will remain online, but the clinical skills and workshops are on campus with reduced numbers for social distancing. We’ll still have one 2-day intensive this semester, but most other practicals are back to weekly. So far, so good.

How do you feel about being in Adelaide during the pandemic?

Actually, it’s a privilege. We’ve managed COVID-19 quite well, and I’m happy to be here. I would say we are safe, and if we keep up with following the guidelines, we should be ok.

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