June 22, 2007

Program gives area nursing students more clinical experience

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From left, Jenny Pekins, Ashley Hodge and Anesa Willoughby practice the essentials of resuscitation through a new program that offers expanded clinical experiences to area nursing school students. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Program gives area nursing students more clinical experience

Vanderbilt has launched an innovative program this summer that gives students from area nursing schools the chance to get significantly more clinical experience.

The eight-week program is called Vanderbilt Experience: Student Nurse Internship Program (VESNIP) and involves 53 students from six Middle Tennessee nursing schools. It is designed to give rising seniors a breadth and depth of experience they may miss in traditional nursing curriculums.

“Students often don't have the opportunity to get robust clinical opportunities in nursing school because there's simply not enough time to provide them with the opportunity to see the continuum of patient care or every type of complex patient that we now see in the hospital and clinical settings,” said Debianne Peterman, Ph.D., M.S.N., director of Nursing Education and Development for VUMC. “New graduates are coming to us as general nurses without expertise in a specific clinical area or confidence in their technical skills.”

Students will rotate across VUMC outpatient and inpatient areas to gain valuable hands-on experience, working side-by-side with more than 100 nurse preceptors. Typical student nurse clinical experiences involve isolated exposure to patients and units. Through VESNIP, students will get to see the flow of patient care within each unit as well as see how teams on various units work together.

“There's just no substitute for experiencing the real thing, in a real environment with real professional nurses,” said Betsy Bond, B.S.N, clinical learning consultant for Nursing Education and Development at VUMC.

VUMC has had a summer externship program for student nurses for more than 10 years, but they were unlicensed employees and were limited to observing rather than participating in procedures and helping serve patients.

Peterman and Bond wanted to provide more hands-on experiences across VUMC's entire service line, so they piloted a five-student program with one school and one service line last year.

The results were promising, so the two spent a majority of this year contacting area nursing schools and working with VUMC nurse educators to develop the VESNIP program.

”I met with many nursing schools who jumped at the chance to get involved,” said Peterman. “I'm really excited that we're knocking down the walls and going where health care needs to go. This partnership of six schools is possible because the deans of the schools and faculty were willing to share curricula and believed in the idea.”

Peterman believes the program will help cultivate future VUMC nurses as well. She cites an industry statistic that 35 percent to 60 percent of new nurses change units or positions in nursing within their first year on the job.

She hopes the VESNIP program, with its view of the entire service line, will help nurse graduates better determine where they want to work.

Each of the students receives credit according to their home institution. The students attend clinical as well as a minimum of 10 seminar hours, which are built into the program, such as the recent skills day at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. Additional seminars include palliative care, nurse wellness and resume development.

Partner schools in the program include Belmont University, Cumberland University, Western Kentucky University, Austin Peay State University and students from the Lipscomb-Vanderbilt University partnership.