Building a Statewide Nursing Education Framework: Maine's Nursing Student Placement Program
Sherry Rogers, RN, MSN, NEA-BC, is Chief Nursing Officer at Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan, Maine. She is co-chair of Maine Partners in Nursing Education and Practice, a project of Partners Investing in Nursing’s Future, which is a partnership of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the Northwest Health Foundation.
Maine is a rural state with the least dense population among states east of the Mississippi. The greater Portland area in southern Maine contains 20 percent of Maine’s residents, while northern counties have fewer than one person per square mile. A drive from the state’s southernmost hospital to its northernmost school of nursing would take approximately seven hours by car. The rural nature of Maine provides unique challenges to the state’s 13 nursing schools when it comes to placing students in their needed clinical hospital rotations. I am helping to oversee a program aimed at overcoming those student placement challenges.
Our project, called Maine Partners in Nursing Education and Practice, partnered with the Maine Department of Labor to link the state’s schools of nursing with hospital clinical rotation sites by implementing a Maine region of the Massachusetts Centralized Clinical Placement (MCCP), a web-based program that streamlines the scheduling and management of clinical nursing education placements between health care organizations and nursing programs. The system is owned by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) and can be viewed at www.mcnplacement.org.
The project’s goals are to facilitate the efficient placement of nursing students into clinical sites, expand the number of clinical sites for nursing students, and streamline the orientation of students to their clinical settings. A key part of this program is ensuring that established relationships between schools and organizations that host students are enhanced.
Maine Partners in Nursing Education and Practice phased in this initiative during 2012. In March, Phase I of the project involved Maine Health, and some of its affiliated hospitals, in conjunction with many of the state’s nursing schools. It blazed the way and established changes that allowed the Massachusetts-based model to work for Maine.
In October, Phase II brought in other hospitals and nursing schools. Currently, all 13 schools of nursing, and 64 percent of Maine’s 39 hospitals, are utilizing the system. Training sessions were well attended and were primarily held at the Maine Department of Labor headquarters in central Maine. Alternate locations were connected via audio and video links in northern, eastern and southern parts of the state. This reduced travel time for participants and helped regional groups solidify their relationships with face-to-face meetings. Funding for the training came from Maine’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act health care grant, which aims to loosen the clinical training bottleneck that exists in nursing schools.
Some of the highlights of the system for managing placements include:
- The development of a web-based, password-protected database;
- a streamlined clinical placement process;
- an integrated online orientation program;
- the input of health care organization decision-makers on all placement requests;
- participation from ADN, BSN and MSN programs;
- standard reports regarding clinical placements for health care organizations and nursing programs;
- specialized management features for precepted experiences; and
- automatic alerts and email notifications for requests needing attention.
It is too soon to evaluate the effectiveness of Maine’s Nursing Student Placement System, but I am optimistic that it will bring about some needed changes.
Other states have reported total student placement increases of 25 percent. At the facility where I work, the onboarding of nursing students was enhanced by the system. Students completed our facility specific orientation/ training, and other required training, via a certified Passport before they arrived, allowing them to get to the clinical areas immediately and saving our nurse facilitator’s administrative time. The system was easy to use, the face-to-face training improved relationships with the schools we partner with, and we hope to expand the number of students we train.
At this early date, it appears to be a win-win.
Read more about RWJF’s work to strengthen rural nursing.