“Like mother, like daughter” is a poignant phrase for Janel Scholine, a fourth-semester student in the UF College of Nursing. Scholine witnessed her mother’s steadfast dedication to patient care during a 25-year nursing career. Now — through an innovative clinical education program at UF Health — she’s following her mother’s profession, but taking a slightly different path.
The Academic Partnership Unit, or APU, is a new model of clinical education that places nursing students in units to engage in patient care and learn from UF Health Shands nurses who are designated as university courtesy faculty nurses. To earn this designation, nurses must have a minimum of a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, or B.S.N., or be currently pursuing the degree.
The program, which started in fall 2014, is a joint effort between leaders in the UF College of Nursing and UF Health Shands Nursing and Patient Services to enhance education and integration between students and nursing staff.
Traditionally, nursing students practice on several different units during their years of clinical care education. They’re usually in large groups and adjusting each semester to a new unit takes up precious time they could be using to gain practical skills. The APU model ensures a low faculty-to-student ratio — two students per faculty member — and allows for more questions, comments and hands-on patient care experience. Students also work in the same unit with the same instructor for four semesters.
“You really get to know each other; you’re part of the team,” said Scholine, one of 22 students selected for the first year of the program. “The nurse knows what you need to work on and can put you in situations that challenge you and help you grow.”
A successful first year spurred program expansion to include more students, faculty members and nursing units, said Bryan Weber, Ph.D., ARNP, UF College of Nursing undergraduate nursing program director and an associate professor. There will be a few minor changes in 2016, including additional resources for faculty nurses to better understand their teaching role and assist students.
“One of the goals of the APU is to translate expertise into teaching,” said Duke Lim, M.S.N., R.N., CNML, UF Health Shands Nursing and Patient Services associate vice president and a coordinator of the program. “Our select staff has the opportunity to impart their knowledge to the next generation of nurses and assume a different role as an instructor in our current practice setting.”
Students also benefit from a regular post-conference meeting with Bonnie Carlin, M.S.N., R.N., a UF College of Nursing adjunct clinical assistant professor, APU academic faculty coordinator and part-time nurse on Medical Surgical Cardiac Care Unit 54. The students review their day, evaluate their clinical work and integrate evidence-based practices into care.
“I’m a big believer in consistency and continuity, and that’s what this program does well,” said Carlin. “With the integration of the APU, we’re moving toward consistency between what we’re teaching and what we’re practicing.”
Sam Overly, R.N., a UF Health Shands Hospital Medicine Unit 74 nurse and APU faculty member, saw the program as a chance to change aspects of the traditional nursing education system he experienced when he was a student.
“The way you’re taught tends to be very cut-and-dry and less hands-on than students are willing and want to be,” said Overly. “I give them the opportunity to do a little more than what I got to do. I see my students advance and put together what they learn in class and actually do it with their hands.”
The model originated in Australia and has since increased in popularity in New Zealand, Canada and the U.S. Notably, nursing schools at the University of Portland and the University of Massachusetts Boston have implemented similar programs with their health-system partners. UF Health’s model builds on existing best practices and is tailored to suit the needs of our particular hospitals, students and patient care populations.
Scholine, who is in her final semester, is happy with the level of education and experience she is receiving in the APU.
“I feel confident in my skills,” said Scholine. “I’m looking forward to entering the workforce and working with patients of my own.”