Clinical Liaison Nursing Program Produces Win-Win Situation

12-03-09
        To address some of the complications associated with providing nursing students with clinical experience in an efficient and safe manner, two professors from The University of Scranton’s Nursing Department have piloted a Clinical Liaison Nursing Program with Mercy Health Partners.
In conjunction with Mercy, Sharon Hudacek, Ed.D., professor of nursing, and Catherine Lovecchio, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing, developed the pilot program, which has proven to be highly beneficial to both sides. 
 
        “The goal of this innovative clinical-academic partnership is to enhance the clinical learning and critical thinking skills of The University of Scranton’s undergraduate nursing students in an acute care setting,” said Dr. Lovecchio. Expert nurses employed by Mercy work as clinical liaisons with Scranton faculty and students. 
    
        The collaboration helps address a growing concern among those in nursing education of providing clinical opportunities to fulfill the core competencies while ensuring safe and quality patient care.
 
       “We’re educating new nurses in a very complex clinical environment in a much safer model,” said Dr. Hudacek of the program.
 
        This primarily is because, as Dr. Hudacek points out, the current average ratio in high-acuity patient care settings is one faculty member to eight students. Because faculty members on the clinical unit must spend their time supervising and providing guidance to several student nurses with multiple patient assignments, the students can become frustrated as they try to hone their skills while waiting for attention.
 
        Dr. Hudacek explains that the Clinical Liaison Nursing Program offered a solution through dedicated education units (DEUs), in which expert staff nurses and academic faculty collaborate to provide an efficient and supportive learning environment for students. The program links nursing students with clinical liaison nurses (CLNs) on two acute care units. At all times, an academic faculty member is also on the unit to facilitate care. Last spring, approximately 24 seniors participated in the pilot program.
 
        CLNs, she notes, are staff nurses with more than two years of clinical experience who have been selected by their nurse managers and the clinical faculty to take on the teaching role. CLNs worked with University of Scranton faculty to coordinate the teaching and learning experiences for the nursing students. 
 
“The nursing students were assigned to all of their CLNs’ patients for a given shift, and the CLNs collaborated with faculty to facilitate coordination of patient care,” said Dr. Hudacek. “We provided the CLNs with a comprehensive orientation that included the importance of professional role modeling and applying theoretical learning to patient care situations.” 
 
        The results have been positive for the students and for Mercy. 
 
        “The nurses at Mercy have always been great,” said Dr. Lovecchio, “The partnership has been effective because both parties bring something unique. Mercy Health Partners brings clinical expertise and The University of Scranton adds a strong academic and research element. The Clinical Liaison Nursing Program has been a total win-win for both.”
 
        The University of Scranton is currently funding a full study of the program. 
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