Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant Helps Augustana Nurse Faculty Deepen Bond with Clinical Partners

    • July 8, 2009

Although the acronym “QSEN” may be new to many nurses in the field, it’s a familiar term on the campus of the Department of Nursing at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. That’s because the letters—which stand for Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN)—are emblazoned on credit-card sized badges worn by the students and faculty at Augie’s nursing school.

The school’s clinical partners also wear the QSEN badges, reflecting their shared commitment to integrating the six QSEN competencies—patient-centered care; teamwork and collaboration; evidence-based practice; quality improvement; safety; and informatics—into nursing education and practice.

Together, students, teachers and clinical nurses have formed a “transformational partnership” around improving the quality and safety of patient care, said Pamela Schroeder, M.Ed., M.S. R.N., an assistant professor in Augustana’s nursing department and head of the school’s QSEN project. “The commitment to change has been phenomenal, not only within the faculty but also with our clinical partners.”

Augustana’s collaboration with its clinical partners predates the QSEN initiative, a project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to review the nursing school curriculum to ensure students graduate with cutting-edge patient care skills.

But the relationship has deepened as a result of the grant, Schroeder said. Communication and collaboration between the school and clinical partners at Avera McKennan University Health Center and Sanford USD Medical Center—both in Sioux Falls, S.D.—have increased since the project began two years ago, Schroeder said.

Last year, Avera McKennan University Health Center teamed up with the nursing school to create a joint faculty position for a nurse educator who works in both settings. The faculty member uses simulation activities to educate both students and professional nurses employed at Avera in the six QSEN competencies.  

Sanford USD Medical Center, meanwhile, worked with nurse faculty to implement a “Partners in Nursing” program to target new nursing graduates. During the program, second-semester seniors become prospective employees of Sanford Health and benefit from an accelerated learning plan within the health system during the academic year. Students who are hired by Sanford Health after they graduate are supervised by the same clinical nurse educator they worked with as students, ensuring a smoother transition to clinical practice.

Nurse faculty continue to work with both clinical partners to explore the possibility of developing dedicated clinical units in which students can work collaboratively with nurses on their rounds and take responsibility—under the guidance of clinical nurses and faculty members—for patients during a particular shift. Faculty members hope to launch the program this fall.

QSEN Grant Leads to New Curriculum

The QSEN grant has led to more than just stronger relationships with clinical partners. It has also led to a revised curriculum that puts a greater emphasis on QSEN competencies.

Under the school’s revamped curriculum, students start a professional portfolio of simulation activities in their sophomore year in which they work as teams handling patient case studies in the school’s new simulation lab. Students encounter different simulation scenarios in almost all their clinical classes and, by the time they graduate, have put together a complete portfolio reflecting the six QSEN competencies.

“The students absolutely love it,” Schroeder said. “It gives them the opportunity to integrate technology into their practice and also provides the opportunity to put the student in a controlled environment, with the ability to develop clinical judgment and critical thinking skills.”

The project has also helped faculty members become a more cohesive unit as they have worked toward the shared goal of integrating QSEN competencies into the curriculum. Faculty members are happy with the results of their work: a more succinct, straightforward curriculum that better bridges the gap between education and clinical practice. In addition, the simulation lab is a wonderful recruitment tool, Schroeder said. “Integration of clinical simulation has far exceeded our expectations. We did not have any idea that it would impact us as greatly as it has.”