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The COVID-19 pandemic demands the rapid upskill of the nursing workforce in order to manage an anticipated surge in emergency presentations with acute respiratory problems and/or failure.

This online short course has been specifically designed as a rapid upskill program to support registered nurses (RNs) caring for critically ill patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ten self-paced modules provide online active learning with self-assessment focused on the care of the patient with acute respiratory failure and sepsis. Also included are 12 case studies and six simulator case studies to further reinforce learning.

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Designed For

Highly recommended for registered nurses working in the acute care setting who need to develop foundational knowledge required to safely assess, plan and provide supportive care to patients with acute respiratory failure as a result of COVID-19 infection. In addition, allied health and medical practitioners may find this course relevant to their practice.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the ten modules and case studies learners will be able to:

  1. Apply evidence to the nursing assessment and management of patients with acute respiratory failure and a systemic inflammatory response.
  2. Identify core risks and control measures implemented to safely care for critically ill patients.

Course Units

Each of the ten modules is one hour of learning focused on achieving learning outcomes. Practice and safety alerts are drawn from key current guidelines to support practice. The ten online modules draw from case studies to move through the critical care patient journey from their presentation with acute respiratory and/or haemodynamic deterioration.

  1. Core principles in assessing severe acute respiratory infection
    • Explain fundamental nursing assessments of the patient with a severe acute respiratory infection
    • Describe the key findings that are important in determining the severity of an acute respiratory infection
    • Explore the triggers and strategies for escalation of care for the patient with a severe acute respiratory infection through clinical case study analysis
  2. Management of hypoxic respiratory failure
    • Understand the indications for high flow oxygen therapy and non-invasive positive pressure ventilation
    • Understand the common modes, settings, terminology, risks and benefits of high flow oxygen therapy and non-invasive positive pressure ventilation
    • Understand nursing considerations for the critically ill patient receiving non-invasive ventilation through clinical case study analysis
  3. Arterial blood gas analysis and interpretation
    • Describe a structured approach to blood gas analysis
    • Explain the significance of the findings in the analysis of a blood gas
    • Explore key nursing considerations across a range of blood gas analyses from clinical case studies
  4. Airway management using rapid sequence intubation
    • Define rapid sequence intubation (RSI) and recognise indications for its use
    • Understand communication priorities and personnel involved when planning and preparing for RSI
    • Describe the commonly used drugs and equipment for rapid sequence intubation
    • Be familiar with the RSI procedure, from pre-oxygenation to extubation
    • Understand the general, non-COVID-related risks associated with the RSI procedure and know how to mitigate them
  5. Invasive ventilation principles
    • Understand the most common invasive positive pressure ventilation modes, settings and terminology
    • Describe ventilator-induced lung injury and dyssynchrony. Explore key nursing considerations for the critically ill patient receiving invasive positive pressure ventilation through clinical case study analysis
  6. Invasive ventilation management
    • Explain the common alarm parameters, modifications and nursing actions taken to minimise harmful effects and risks of mechanical ventilation on the critically ill patient
    • Describe the monitoring and evaluation requirements for the patient receiving mechanical ventilation
    • Explore, through clinical case study analysis, risk mitigation and management strategies in the mechanically ventilated patient with acute respiratory failure
  7. Haemodynamic monitoring
    • Explain the function, positioning and risks of invasive haemodynamic monitoring and blood sampling
    • Describe the key nursing considerations required to mitigate risk when managing the patient with an arterial line and/or central venous access device
    • Explore key nursing considerations for the critically ill patient with arterial and central venous access devices and pressure monitoring through clinical case study analysis
  8. Haemodynamic support
    • Explain the most common intravenous fluid management strategies, vasopressors and inotropes used in the care of the critically ill patient
    • Describe the risks and benefits of the use of intravenous fluids, vasopressors and inotropes in the critically ill patient
    • Explore key nursing considerations for the critically ill patient receiving intravenous fluid, vasopressor and/or inotropic support through clinical case study analysis
  9. Care of the sedated and ventilated patient
    • Explain the fundamental nursing interventions for health promotion in the critically ill paralysed, sedated, ventilated patient
    • Describe the relationship between the fundamental nursing interventions and the risks associated with critical illness and admission to critical care
    • Explore fundamental nursing considerations and risk assessment for the paralysed, sedated, ventilated patient through clinical case study analysis
  10. Specific guidelines for the management of sepsis in COVID-19
    • Describe the key assessment criteria for sepsis
    • Explain the standard nursing considerations for the patient admitted to critical care with COVID-19
    • Explore the major changes with respect to the management of sudden deterioration or cardiac arrest in the patient with COVID-19 through clinical case study analysis


Engaging methods of self-assessment are used to provide formative feedback to learners with immediate feedback on responses to support self-paced, flexible learning.

The course will require participants to attain the following:

  • successfully complete all 10 modules (evidence as marked as “complete”)
  • achieve 80% correct answer for Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) across all modules (total of 50 questions) with a maximum of 5 attempts
  • completion of all case studies

A Certificate of Completion is provided upon satisfactory completion of the course.

Delivery Mode

Course completion requires approximately 20 hours of e-learning. This course is delivered online and students can study in their own time and location. Course materials can be accessed using a web browser.


"The Critical Care Essentials for Nurses (COVID-19) online course is a very well presented modular process. Working through each stage allows you to take the time to digest the information presented in tutorials, case studied and simulator cases. The ability to give feedback is encouraged at each stage.
An important course for nurses at this time to refresh your knowledge on critical assessment skille and to maintain current evidence-based interventions in patient care."

Course Leaders

Professor Marie Gerdtz

Professor Marie Gerdtz


Marie Gerdtz’s approach to scholarship emanates from 15 years of clinical practice as a Registered Nurse working in the specialty of emergency nursing. Prior to the completion of her PhD at The University of Melbourne in 2003, she held senior clinical leadership roles in a number of tertiary hospitals. Prof Gerdtz holds an honorary appointment at Melbourne Health, where she has developed a program of research focusing on emergency access, resource allocation, and clinical risk management. Within her research program she has supervised eight RHD candidates to completion, many of these students have progressed to senior roles in health care settings. Clinical implementation of her research findings is enhanced by the strong collaborative partnerships she has established within the health care industry and with government. In late 2016 she was appointed to position of Head, Department of Nursing.


Nick Bridge

Nick Bridge

RN GC-CritCare AdvDip MICA, GradCert Aeromedical Retrieval MHPE

Nick Bridge is a Registered Nurse with extensive experience in critical care nursing, intensive care paramedicine, pre-hospital fixed and rotary wing aeromedical practice, and postgraduate nursing and paramedicine education. Nick leads a major program of work focussed on the re-development of 8 specialty nursing practice courses (2017-currrent) in the Department of Nursing at The University of Melbourne. His expertise also includes curriculum design in online learning and the development of assessment for work-integrated learning in blended postgraduate courses.

Dr Rebecca Jarden

Dr Rebecca Jarden


Rebecca Jarden's 20 years of nursing has been predominantly focused in critical care across a variety of roles in the senior nursing team, such as associate charge nurse manager, flight nurse, and quality portfolio manager. Rebecca has worked at the University of Melbourne's nursing department since 2018, engaging in the development and coordination of the graduate certificate in critical care (ICU) course. Her ongoing research collaborations include critical care, student and transition nurses' wellbeing.

Associate Professor Sharon Kinney

Associate Professor Sharon Kinney

RN, Cardiothoracic Cert, PICU Nursing Cert, MN, PhD

Sharon has dual appointments at The University of Melbourne and the Nursing Research Department at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. She coordinates the Master of Advanced Nursing Practice program and oversees the Graduate Certificate programs in paediatrics, paediatric intensive care and neonatal intensive care. She worked for many years in paediatric critical care and has held clinical and educational appointments within the area. Her program of research focuses on improving the safety and quality of care of hospitalised children with a particular focus on improving the detection and response to paediatric clinical deterioration. She is the nursing lead on the Victorian Children’s Tool for Observation and Response (ViCTOR) projects in Victoria.

Module Contributors

  • Nick Bridge
  • Rebecca Jarden
  • Rosemary Turner
  • Prue Cambridge
  • John Thompson
  • Andrew Scanlon
  • Hollie Prescott

Video SIM Contributors

  • David Story (Centre for Integrated Critical Care)
  • Matthew Lee (Centre for Integrated Critical Care),
  • Tom Hallahan and Tess Vawser (Epworth Hospital Simulation Centre),
  • Janet Beer (Nursing Education, Western Health)

Clinical Practice Guidelines

  • David Story and Jonathan Knott (Centre for Integrated Critical Care)
  • Bjorn Makein (Emergency Medicine Consultant Royal Melbourne Hospital)

Case Study Contributors

  • Colin Royce
  • Rosemary Turner
  • Prue Cambridge
  • Rachael Franklin (Northern Hospital ICU)

Course Reviewers

  • Andrew Scanlon
  • Sharon Kinney
  • Kate Dell’Oro

Course Fees

The course fee is A$165 (incl. GST).

Application Procedure

Please use the "Enrol Now" button to apply for this course.

Enrol Now

Contact Us

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E: mobile-learning@unimelb.edu.au

T: +61 3 8344 5673

Course Information


Course Fee AUD $165 (incl. GST)



Entry requirements

The course is designed to support registered nurses who will be caring for critically ill patients with respiratory failure due to COVID-19 in critical care areas in the acute hospital setting. In addition, allied health and medical practitioners may find this course relevant to their practice.