ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A Rockford nursing program is working to prepare students for a future that involves virtual office visits, or Telehealth.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Telehealth became a primary way of delivering care, but nurses were expected to use the technology without training for it.

Instructors and students at the OSF Saint Anthony College of Nursing recognize that Telehealth patient visits aren’t going anywhere and that now is the time to prepare and adapt.

The school has added a laboratory simulation of Telehealth encounters to its curriculum.

“I think that Telehealth is definitely going to impact the world of health care tremendously,” said Assistant Professor Dawn Mosher.

“It’s becoming more popular with having access to patients at home and keeping them healthier at home instead of hospitalization,” said nursing student Keelee Loy.

The simulation-based training allows students to get firsthand experience with possible healthcare scenarios, with actors as their patients.

“They get real-time responses. The actors are trained on how to respond to the questions that the students would be will be asking them, so then, the students have to — in real time — react to whatever responses the patient/actors are giving them,” Mosher said.

On Tuesday, some students completed a mental health follow up appointment for a patient that had been hospitalized for depression and then discharged. Others conducted a surgical follow-up with a patient admitted for a seizure or a stroke.

“It is still really important, as a nurse, to make connections with a patient, and to do that over a screen or over the telephone is a little bit more difficult,” Mosher said. “So, to be able to really provide comprehensive care, the practice, in how to manage that without being in-person, has been a good experience for them.”