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Nursing students train in new partnership program at local hospital

Low student-mentor ratio looks to improve education, job prospects

UNLV students in the school of nursing are getting firsthand experience in an innovative partnership with Summerlin Hospital Medical Center.
The Dedicated Education Unit (DEU), in conjunction with UNLV and Summerlin Hospital, offers students the opportunity to learn directly from nursing mentors and get hands-on practice with patient care.
The pilot project, is one of only 19 in the nation and the first in Nevada. It began at the start of the spring semester.
UNLV is the only participating institution in the state.
Carolyn Yucha, dean of nursing and allied health sciences at UNLV, said though the program has seen success in other cities, there had been reluctance from area hospitals in taking on the project.
“I’ve been waiting for a hospital to show some interest in trying [the project] with us because it really is an experiment,” she said.
Lynnette Ball, the chief nursing officer at Summerlin Hospital, ultimately decided to give the partnership with UNLV a go.
“[Ball] is more of a risk taker,” Yucha said.
The nursing program at UNLV consists of four upper-division semesters and students are admitted only after prerequisites have been met.
During each of these semesters, students are required to have clinical experiences in hospitals. The usual program assigns eight students to every one nurse, which can cause lack of cohesion in the clinical learning environment.
Students might not remain at the same hospital each semester, which makes it difficult for them to build stable connections and for nurses to keep track of student progress.
There are nine nursing programs that rotate through Valley hospitals.
Under the partnership with Summerlin Hospital, two students are assigned to every one nurse. Each nurse in the program completes training to become a clinical DEU instructor (CDI).
“They work with the same people week after week,” Yucha said, “so they get to know each other and the staff start to care about what the students learn.”
Professors accompany their students to Summerlin Hospital on either Wednesdays or Thursdays each week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to make sure course goals are being accomplished.
Mirandine Fitchette, an associate professor of nursing at UNLV, said her familiarity with the clinical environment helps her to be effective with the Summerlin Hospital nursing staff.
“I am here as a resource to nurses training the students,” she said.
Fitchette said faculty utilize their time better and students learn and experience much more in the partnership program than what is presented in the traditional classroom setting.
Tiffani Lewis, a junior nursing student participating in the project, said gaining experience in a hospital is rewarding but that it is also challenging, as she tries to handle coursework and maintain a good GPA.
“Trying to juggle everything — it’s a lot,” she said.
Lewis said convenience and affordability influenced her decision to study nursing at UNLV.
“Other nursing programs either have a waitlist or are really, really expensive,” she said.
Lewis said that she is not interested in staying in Nevada after graduation, though Yucha is hoping other nursing students will decide to remain, as she expects students’ ability to offer excellent service in their field will increase their likelihood of job placement.
“If [students] like the hospital and the hospital staff likes them, there’s a good chance that they’ll be hired,” Yucha said.
Christal Camama, a senior in the school of nursing, said her experience at Summerlin Hospital has been great so far. She said that she finds it better than the program she participated in last semester at Sunrise Hospital, where she and seven other students were trained by one nurse.
Camama said the project has opened her eyes to the real world of clinical nursing, which she said includes hazardous tasks and a significant amount of paperwork.
“You get more well -rounded and experience what a real nurse does,” she said.
The CDIs have an integral role in the running of the project.
“The nurses are all really helpful,” Camama said. “They’re always pleasant and willing to answer any questions that [students] have.”
Nurse manager Jennifer Millet said that the other method of teaching students was difficult and that she finds the pilot model more effective, as “it gives each instructor and student that one-on-one companionship.”
“When you see that light bulb go on, it’s so self-gratifying to know that you made a difference and you made [students] think in a different way,” she said.
Long hours were cited as one of the most challenging things students face, but most said commitment pushes them toward their goal of becoming registered nurses.
“With all of our classes and exams it gets tiring,” Camama said. “But it’s worth it.”

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posted in: National, Nevada, news, Employer News
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