How To Engage Remote Nursing Students


How To Keep First-Year Nursing Students Engaged

Remote learning comes with more than its fair share of hurdles. Not only do students miss out on the spontaneity that can occur naturally in a lively classroom environment, but they also have to find a way to navigate through the technological frustrations of a bad internet connection or a Wi-Fi signal that continues to cut out.

These frustrations are not only very aggravating, but they can also be lethal to student engagement. In this article, we take a look at how to engage first-year nursing students in a remote or hybrid learning environment.

Hybrid Versus Fully Remote

Two years into the pandemic and counting, many schools are returning to the classroom or adopting a hybrid model.

While many of the suggestions featured below emphasize remote learning, they are adaptable to the hybrid environment as well.

The Importance Of Student Engagement

Student engagement has consistently been shown to be one of the most important predictors of academic achievement. Students who are interested in and engaged with their coursework are significantly more likely to do well than those who are not.

Boosting student engagement is never easy, but numbers have only declined in the remote work environment. While many teachers feel their hands are tied by the limitations of remote education, there are methods you can use to improve your educational outcomes.


Remote or hybrid learning environments are filled with imperfections and human moments. Dogs bark. Kids play in the background. Spouses walk in front of the screen. Wi-Fi cuts out…things go wrong. For educators who are used to the controlled environment of a classroom, this can be difficult to get used to.

Accepting the variables of the remote or hybrid work environment and learning to work through them is key both for you and your students. Chances are that your nursing students will be self-conscious of, and possibly even embarrassed by the “human” moments that crawl across their screen. By creating an accepting environment, you not only ensure that all of your students feel comfortable but you also set a tone for your class that allows for good learning.

If possible, consider asking your students what online meeting times work best for them. While this may not work in large classes, it may be possible to coordinate the schedules of smaller groups to find meeting times that are as free of distractions as possible. Not only will this remove distractions, but it will also show your students that you care sincerely about their educational success.

The need for heightened patience may be particularly relevant to the hybrid educational setting. Educators may experience weeks of high-quality in-person learning only to be derailed for several weeks because of a COVID outbreak.

Frustrating though these situations may be, the ability to accept them with patience will increase your ability to pivot seamlessly between remote and in-person learning.


Simulations not only help to engage students, but they can also provide valuable emergency response experiences. Nursing simulations allow students the opportunity to respond to a wide variety of life-threatening situations without the risk of working with an actual patient.

Virtual Reality is an increasingly popular way to train doctors, nurses, and other professionals who work in high-pressure environments. Unfortunately, this technology may not be widely available in the remote work environment.

Alternatively, your students may find success with one of the many phone and tablet applications that provide simulation experiences. These programs present the nursing student with situations they might encounter in an emergency room. The nurses make their decisions, and the patient outcomes are adjusted as a result.

Many of these simulations are available either for free or at a low cost to the student, making it a relatively accessible way to improve your students’ engagement and give them valuable experience at the same time.

You may also consider seeing what resources your university has available. They may be able to connect you and your students with free materials that provide many of the same benefits described above.

Variety Is Key

Monotony can be lethal to student engagement. In the remote or hybrid educational environment, it can be difficult to add variety to your lesson plans. Don’t let yourself fall into a rut. Consider involving multiple forms of media in your class work.

This will make your class more interesting for the simple reason that it keeps things fresh and new, but it also has the potential to be even more impactful. Remember that everyone learns differently. A class plan that uses the same style of exercises over and over may fail to meet the educational needs of an entire group of students, making engagement next to impossible.

To cater to the widest possible audience, enrich your lesson plans with a variety of reading, audio, and visual materials.

Personal Stories

Most nursing teachers have spent years working in hospitals. Consider using your practical experience to ground lesson plans. Not only will this remind your students of why they are in the program to begin with, but it may also help you bond with your class, boosting engagement in the process.

Start With What You Usually Do And Work Your Way Back From There

It’s not unusual for teachers who are in a remote environment for the first time to assume they have to reinvent the wheel. In fact, for many years, remote education has often followed a simple, rather bland format.

Students do their coursework independently. They post their thoughts about it online. They respond to their peers. They rinse. They repeat. While this strategy may work for some classes, it’s not a very good way to get the next wave of nurses excited for the career path ahead of them.

If you have experience working with students in person, start thinking about what made your lessons work well originally. The idea should be to capture the essence of in-person work in the remote environment.

Naturally, adjustments will have to be made. There are certain things that only work when everyone is sharing a room.

You may even need to take your students’ lifestyle requirements into account. Some students actively choose remote or hybrid work because they require a more flexible school schedule.

Adjustments are fine. Just don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Think about what makes your class work, and find a way to bring that to an online space. Not only will that keep your students engaged, but it will also help ensure that you enjoy the class as well.

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