Tips for ED Educators during COVID-19
By: Jen Denno, MSN, RN, CEN, CPEN, FAEN

One of the biggest difficulties for emergency departments during COVID-19 has been staying on top of educating their staff. This has made the role of Nurse Educator not only extra vital, but extremely challenging.

Today, California ENA member Jen Denno, MSN, RN, CEN, CPEN, FAEN, is sharing her top advice for nurse educators on how to stay fresh and effective.

As an ED Educator for 12 years (and 23 years in nursing altogether), I was asked to share some tips for educating during the time of COVID-19. Educators love to share, so I hope you find some helpful tips below.

1) Read, Read, Read
If you are an educator or staff nurse assisting with unit education, you probably love to read. During COVID-19 or any other new syndrome, it’s important to read from varied and legitimate sources. For example, during the Ebola crisis, I focused on literature from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) because those agencies had firsthand knowledge of the illness and a long history of dealing with infectious diseases. Eventually, Emory University and Nebraska Medicine became centers of incredibly specialized treatment for Ebola patients in the U.S. They shared their knowledge with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and you can find all kinds of PPE guidance and disease information on their websites. During COVID-19, I’ve been reading many medical journals, but the New England Journal of Medicine has been the most up-to-date and has provided the widest coverage of all the COVID-19 issues. The Journal of the American Medical Association also has had many good articles during this time. If you don’t have access to these journals personally, check out your hospital’s medical library. The librarian usually can give you electronic access to many online journals for free.

2) Collaborate
As an ED Educator, I know nurses and clinicians from every discipline in my hospital but also educators, policy leaders, disaster preparedness managers, and EMS directors in my county, state, and across the country. This gives me a wide range of experts to query when our ED has a new issue or problem to fix. Recently I worked with another ENA member to deliver education via Zoom about caring for COVID-19 patients and ventilator management. I could not have done this by myself as I had not learned much about using Zoom at that time and was pretty busy in my own ED keeping up with the constant PPE changes and education requirements. Working with someone who knew how to navigate this online platform was invaluable, and I learned so much in the process. With this experience under my belt, I felt confident enough to teach my own classes on Zoom at my hospital this week and it went well. I was glad to have this new skill since we are working hard to provide education during social distancing requirements.

3) Communicate and Listen
Providing information is crucial during times of crisis where so much is still unknown. Explaining the science behind decisions from hospital leaders is helpful, but what I found after a few weeks of trying to provide information was that many staff wanted me to listen to them. I modified my approach when I sensed a staff member was dealing with stressors at home and work that were new to all of us. In another situation, I remember one nurse telling me she just couldn’t make it to the fit testing sessions we had scheduled. As I was trying to give her ideas on how to be able to attend, she told me just how many stressors she had going on in her home life that were acting as barriers to attending fit testing, something that I knew would make her safer at work. I then tried to relax my approach and really listen. Communication really is a two-way street and as an educator, I’ve learned you can’t teach someone who is stressed. It’s better to help them as best you can and provide education when they are in a better frame of mind.

4) Connect
One of the most valuable benefits of being a member of your professional organization such as Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) is being able to network and connect with nurses in all areas of emergency nursing. Due to my roles at local, state, and national levels, I have access to ED nurses who work in all kinds of roles across the state and country. For example, I know a nurse at the hospital in town who put up the first COVID-19 tent in our area and was able to visit their operation, take pictures, and learn from their processes so we could set up our tent. When we had concerns about PPE use, we read the ENA huddle topics pages to see how everyone else was dealing with the same problems. Part of my job as the Unit Educator is to write and review policies. It is invaluable to be able to reach out to other ED nurses to learn from their best practices. As I mentioned at the beginning, educators love to share. When I have attended poster sessions at the national ENA conferences, I bring back so much incredible information that I usually have a sit down meeting with my director to share it all. I have also presented posters and published articles where my ED has done great work and gotten queries from other EDs to learn how they can improve too.
5) Care

Don’t forget to take care of yourself!

Educating is fun and provides a great sense of accomplishment when nurses feel more confident in their skills based on your work. When you have a lot of education topics and staff to provide all at once, it can be overwhelming.

  • Reach out to fellow educators to learn their tips for time and project management. If you are always going home feeling like you haven’t completed your to do list, make your list into manageable items to complete! Recognizing that you have had a few small victories each day will put you in a better mood to return the next day and tackle it all again.
  • Find ways to get rejuvenated in your work. Take a class in something else you enjoy but observe how it’s being taught. If you enjoyed the class, see if you can incorporate what you enjoyed about it in your own education. In a recent class I taught about trauma assessments, I told the participants they would need to have a stuffed animal/doll/pet available so I could watch their assessment. It turned out to be a fun exercise for everyone; one nurse showed us his dog’s airway and one nurse did a great job doing the head to toe exam while pointing out that her doll had no nose. Making a fun learning environment has been shown to increase retention of subject matter so don’t hesitate to get creative!
  • Lastly, find ways to rejuvenate yourself when you are not at work during this time. Take a walk and call friend that you can’t visit during this time, try a new hobby, or just catch up on your rest. I have been learning about mindfulness after 2 family members were very ill last year. Taking a few minutes each day to focus on my breathing or my stress level has been very helpful. There are many books, apps, and websites to find more information. I also started watching a zoo feed where the keepers would talk about a new animal each day. It really helped me take a break from the daily stressors of work and home-schooling my kids.

What are your tips for education and learning? I’d love to hear from you!


About the Author

Jen Denno, MSN, RN, CEN, CPEN, FAEN is a Clinical Educator for the Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento Emergency Department. She lectures at local, state, and national conferences and has published in the Journal of Emergency Nursing and in the Emergency Nursing Core Curriculum textbook.

As the Government Affairs Chair for California, she believes all nurses can be part of local, state, and federal advocacy. She has 23 years of nursing experience including emergency, critical care, and research.

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