The Catholic University of America

Oct. 6, 2010

Nursing School to Be Honored for Innovative Hospital Assignments for Students

An innovative program that has improved clinical assignments at Washington, D.C., area hospitals for Catholic University nursing students will be honored by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) in November.

The School of Nursing will receive the AACN Innovations in Professional Nursing Education Award for its Bridge to Practice clinical model on Nov. 1 at the AACN Fall Semiannual Meeting in D.C.

Mary Paterson, professor of nursing, said she came up with the idea for the program about four years ago when the nursing school was having trouble arranging clinical placements for junior and senior nursing majors. She developed the program in collaboration with associate professors Cindy Grandjean, Nalini Jairath and Barbara Moran and Assistant Professor Teresa Walsh.

The award, which recognizes the work of AACN member schools to re-envision traditional models for nursing education and to lead programmatic change, includes a $1,000 prize. The award is given annually in four categories. CUA’s nursing school was selected to receive the honor for private schools without a hospital.

Paterson notes that because CUA does not have a teaching hospital, it was difficult, in the past, to find placements for students for the medical/surgical part of their clinical experience. Now, as part of the program, students are placed at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center, George Washington University Hospital, Inova Fairfax Hospital and the Washington Hospital Center.

“It was challenging to find clinical placements, and the placements were on more of a semester-by-semester basis,” she says. “Now a student is placed at the same hospital for four semesters and the hospital sees Catholic University’s nursing school as a partner.”

Paterson notes that initially a clinical assignment includes a substantial amount of orientation time for students. “Because students now return to the same hospital every semester, their orientation time is significantly reduced,” Paterson says. “The students also build a solid relationship with a hospital and develop a template for their professional life.”

The hospitals that participate in the program often provide senior clinical preceptors — nurses who train and mentor the students. The preceptor’s time is paid by the university. CUA nursing faculty members often participate in clinical research at the hospitals and lend their expertise to the medical institutions’ nursing education divisions — an aspect of the program that is different from that of other nursing school programs.

Paterson notes that there has been added benefit of the program. “Because our faculty members have been serving as mentors for the clinical preceptors at participating hospitals, we’ve had a number of the preceptors enroll in our doctoral programs,” she says.

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