Ebola 101 Module: An Opportunity for Students to Think Globally, Act Locally

Monday, 9 November 2015: 1:45 PM

Elizabeth A. Tinnon, PhD, MSN, BSN, RN, CNE
Department of Collaborative Nursing Care, University of Southern Mississippi College of Nursing, Hattiesburg, MS, USA


The purpose of this project was to increase student knowledge in the nursing care required for patients with Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) using inquiry-based learning.


On September 30, 2014, United States (US) health care providers experienced firsthand, Ebola, a disease that had always “been over there”. It was evident that health care facilities and health care providers were not prepared to provide care to patients with EVD or patients who may have been exposed. Prior to the United States EVD outbreak nursing education had relegated EVD to a brief mention in the community health course. Nurses as frontline healthcare providers must be knowledgeable in all aspects of caring for the patient with EVD. With the access and ability for worldwide travel, our global borders are shrinking and it is probable that the United States will see additional incidences of EVD. Normally EVD is not taught in the Chronic Conditions course (students completed their population health course the previous semester) but the faculty wanted to take advantage of this unique moment in time to prepare our students to properly care for patients with EVD.

Teaching/Learning Methodology

Utilizing the framework of inquiry based learning (Levy, Aiyegbayot, & Little 2009) the faculty developed a learning activity to increase the nursing students’ knowledge of EVD and the care of patients with EVD.  The opportunity for students to create a learning module would stimulate their interest, increase their curiosity and enable them to think creatively and independently.  Students were placed into 5 groups. Each group was assigned a different aspect to investigate regarding the EVD outbreak. The assignments were:

  • Group 1: What is EVD? Pathophysiology, epidemiology, signs and symptoms
  • Group 2: How is EVD transmitted? Transmission routes, risk factors
  • Group 3: What infection control measures are needed to protect health care provider and


  • Group 4: How do we treat Ebola? Current treatments and vaccines
  • Group 5: Tracking EVD: Outbreak map to track EVD from its beginning, discuss how it has "traveled and why"

Each group was instructed to produce both written work and an oral presentation on their assigned content. Students were informed that the collected information would be compiled into a notebook entitled, “Ebola 101: What every nursing student needs to know”. Students were allowed to determine their own methods of obtaining, synthesizing and presenting information.


For faculty this project exceeded all our expectations, we were amazed at the depth and breadth of information the students brought forward.  On the day of the presentation the community faculty was also invited to hear the presentations and participate in the dialogue, they too voiced an appreciation for the broad scope of knowledge the students had gained.

The students’ response to the EVD project was overwhelmingly positive. Students were enthusiastic about the opportunity to structure their own learning experience. As the project progressed students were constantly sharing websites, new and changing information with faculty and peers.

Students saw the importance of infection control policies and procedures for the safety of health care providers and their patients. Though faculty reiterates this ad nausaum, the EVD outbreak in the Unites States really brought that home for our students. Students also expressed amazement at how rapidly these policies and procedures changed over the course of the outbreak.

The positive and negative aspects of media coverage were examined. In particular, students were outraged a nurse was the first blamed during the EVD outbreak. Discussion ensued about whether some journalist or scientist were fanning the flames of hysteria or presenting another valid side to the issue.

For the first time our students associated EVD with real individuals with faces and names rather than as a statistical table with no relevance to the human condition. As student shared about the earlier outbreaks and the number of people affected the students began to realize the cost in terms of lost lives.

They discovered the other side of the world in their own backyard. One group of students purchased a map and used pins to keep their colleagues up to date regarding the spread of EVD from the first identified case until the current cases in the fall of 2014.

The student created learning module was a success for both faculty and students. This teaching learning strategy could be used effectively within any nursing course, and with any content.