Showing them the ropes

Nursing student clinical experiences enriched through dedicated education units.

By Jule Heflin

There is nothing like working closely with an experienced professional to understand how to become successful in a career. This concept is the focus of University of Louisville Hospital (ULH) dedicated education units (DEUs), recognized by the Kentucky Board of Nursing as the first DEU program in Kentucky. The collaborative partnership between ULH and the University of Louisville School of Nursing recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. Additionally, the DEU has been designated by the Kentucky Board of Nursing as a “best practice” initiative for enhancing the quality of undergraduate nursing student clinical education.

These units provide University of Louisville School of Nursing students clinical experiences with practicing bachelor’s degree prepared registered nurses (RNs). Hospital RNs identified as patient care leaders receive additional training to function in the role of RN clinical adjunct faculty. They give instruction to students while maintaining their patient care responsibilities. UofL School of Nursing faculty members provide oversight of the experiences.

UofL nursing student Shelby Moses and ULH nurse Jenny Jones were paired in the hospital’s first DEU established last year on 5 South, a progressive care unit.

“This was my first clinical rotation in a hospital – which can be daunting,” Moses said. “It was incredible to work closely with a nurse and see how they manage day-today tasks and interact with patients; the experience helped me understand what I’ll be up against in the future.”

Win-Win Situation
For ULH nurses, the experience offers professional development and fosters pride and ownership of education and practice opportunities.

Pamela Smith Elzy, director of nursing education, Magnet Research and Clinical Informatics Departments at ULH, reviewed several methods designed to meet this objective. Her efforts have resulted in providing this unique DEU model to nursing students, staff RN Clinical Adjuncts, and to the School of Nursing at UofL.

Elzy provided that “the DEU collaborative model provides a unique opportunity for both nursing students who are learning their craft and nursing staff who are experts in the patient care arena to develop professionally. The student can participate in a real time, personalized learning experience while the RN staff can grow and develop professionally as teachers and mentors for the students. Additionally, the nursing clinical faculty can assist both groups in the learning process. It’s definitely a win-win situation.”

“The ULH model supports the School of Nursing’s adult health course, while applying concepts learned into professional practice, alongside the highly trained staff RNs at ULH,” added Cathy Velasquez, DNP, ULH professional development coordinator.

Thi s collaborative model for Dedicated Education Units provides more one-to-one interaction than the traditional clinical rotations, and can increase a student’s satisfaction with their clinical education experience.

Academic/Practice Partnership
“This program gives students a better picture of how care is provided at ULH so they have a greater understanding of how an academic healthcare environment functions,” said Mary Jane Adams, MSN, ULH senior vice president and chief nursing officer.

“This model offers students a quality clinical experience, and promotes our academic/practice partnership with ULH. It is an innovative approach to education that is preparing our graduates to best meet the growing healthcare needs of patients in the Commonwealth and the nation,” added Diane Chlebowy, PhD, RN, director, UofL School of Nursing BSN programs.

And what about students like Moses? She is in her last semester of nursing academic preparation and is completing her required patient care hours on 5 South at ULH.

Her clinical manager, Melissa Burchett, has seen advanced clinical preparedness in Moses’ abilities with surgical oncology patients and notes that Shelby is “better prepared for the RN role expectations for providing quality care to patients and families as part of a collaborative team.”

Moses hopes to pursue additional education and eventually become an administrator where she can help implement programs like the DEU model.

“I definitely see the need for this, and believe nursing students in other parts of Kentucky could really benefit,” she said.

Julie Heflin is a health communications specialist at the University of Louisville Health Sciences Center.


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