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Shared Success - Nurses Tackle Teaching, Students Take on Hospitals

Mark D'AndreaMark D'AndreaCatherine Fiona MacPherson peered through the window of her patient's room in the pediatric cancer center. Propped up against the bed pillows sat junior nursing student Shawn Craven, and curled up in his lap, turning pages of a book, sat the 4-year-old patient, a child receiving end-of-life care for an aggressive metastatic tumor.

The moment stands out from staff nurse MacPherson's first year as a part-time clinical lecturer for the University of Washington School of Nursing. In spite of his skill and confidence with technical procedures and older children, Craven had put off caring for small children during his clinical experience.

"He just wants me to read to him," Craven told MacPherson. He was more nervous about reading a story to a 4-year-old than learning how to start an IV, MacPherson recalls. So they talked about an approach, and she hung around outside the room to be supportive, just as she would if a student were concerned about something technical.

"That picture [of them reading together] captured for me a lot of the essence of pediatric nursing," MacPherson says. Craven may not choose pediatrics for his career, but MacPherson is certain he learned a powerful nursing lesson that day: "Good nursing is about caring and just being there."

Last year, the pediatric oncology unit at Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center in Seattle opened its doors to UW students and agreed to allow MacPherson, a staff nurse, to teach 20 hours a week. With an appointment as a UW lecturer in family and child nursing, she is part of a loaned faculty program that allows expert nurses to contribute directly to students' education by teaching them in their clinical settings. In exchange, the nurses receive mentoring and guidance in clinical teaching from School of Nursing faculty.

"I saw the opportunity to teach the students as an opportunity to share my love of what I do with future nurses," MacPherson says. "It gives me huge job satisfaction to try something new and challenging. It's a great opportunity for professional growth and development."

As MacPherson starts her second year of clinical teaching, she joins other nurses participating in the UW loaned faculty partnerships with Northwest Hospital & Medical Center, Virginia Mason Medical Center, the Veterans Affairs (VA) Puget Sound Health Care System, UW Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center. In many cases, the partner institution pays the nurses' regular salary while the nurses teach a section of UW students in place of regular clinical work. Each has its own unique take on the partnership.

The VA hospital, which has a long-standing relationship with the School of Nursing, is starting its third year of the loaned faculty program. Frankie Manning, nurse executive for VA Puget Sound Health Care System, says the program provides "a mechanism for our staff who are fairly mature and have lots of wisdom and expertise to contribute to the education of nurses. At the same time, we can extend the length of their careers and practice by giving them what is, in some ways, a sabbatical from their worksite."

At Virginia Mason, the focus of the dual nurse-faculty role is on a smooth transition from student to employee and on continuing education, says Charleen Tachibana, vice president and chief nurse executive at Virginia Mason.

"What we began hearing from our residents as well as our students was that the experiences were much more positive, they were more pleased with the transition to a working nurse role," she says. The result of their transition programs, of which the loaned faculty program is one part, Tachibana says, is "a zero percent turnover for our first two years of hire." She adds: "The cost of a clinical faculty was far, far less than what we were spending in turnover."

Several area hospitals also partner with the School of Nursing in another way: student scholar loan programs. Evergreen Hospital Medical Center, Harborview, Swedish Medical Center, UWMC and Virginia Mason participate in the program, which pays a student's tuition and some expenses for one to three years. In exchange, the student agrees to work at the medical center part time during school and for one to two years after graduation.

"Our students love 'getting to know' a partner institution and seeing all the possibilities available in it," says Julie Katz, assistant dean for academic services. "The scholarships allow the students to really succeed in school, and they all but eliminate the sometimes difficult transition to RN employment. These programs allow us to truly integrate with our partners, forming bridges that bring us student support, and them quality RNs."

Virginia Mason wanted a way to celebrate the accomplishments of nursing students, and Tachibana says, "We clearly wanted people who were interested in the type of clientele that we serve and could find a match with us."

Both the faculty loan and student scholarship programs address the challenges ahead with the faculty and nursing shortage, says Susan Woods, associate dean for academic programs. "The people we're partnering with need to retain their nurses and they need new nurses. We need resources to prepare new nurses and faculty and the students need scholarships. So these programs are a win-win."

CREDIT: Mark D'Andrea, a senior in the BSN program, received a student loan scholarship from Virginia Mason Medical Center, where he currently works in the critical care unit. In exchange for paid tuition, he will work at VMMC for one year following graduation.