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Robert Morris University and St. Clair Hospital Form Academic Service Partnership to Advance Nursing Education
By Nancy Kennedy


Robert Morris University has joined forces with St. Clair Hospital in a new partnership that promises to bring myriad benefits to both institutions. Nadine Englert, PhD, RN, associate dean and chief nurse administrator at the RMU School of Nursing, Education and Human Studies says that the new formal relationship is an academic service partnership, a collaboration between an educational institution and a healthcare organization. One component of the new partnership is a “Dedicated Educational Unit” (DEU) program, a peer education model that is transforming the way that basic nursing students gain clinical skills by employing hospital staff nurses as clinical instructors. At St. Clair, the program will pair staff nurses with nursing students to give them clinical experience and a realistic view of hospital nursing. The DEU concept departs from traditional nursing education in several important ways,” explains Dr. Englert. “Most importantly, the nursing student has a one-to-one clinical experience with a registered nurse. The DEU provides an immersion experience; students are deeply engaged in patient care. The staff nurses get an opportunity to share their expertise and to make a difference for a future nurse.”

RMU is one of many regional nursing schools that have been bringing groups of nursing students to the Hospital for clinical rotations for years. This agreement takes that further and deeper. The students have the advantage of a prime clinical placement in one of the region’s most highly regarded hospitals, known nationally for its high quality of care. The staff nurse educators have prepared for this expansion of their role by undergoing special training at RMU. “St. Clair is a top notch clinical learning environment and we are fortunate to have the Hospital as a devoted clinical partner,” Dr. Englert says. “Nursing schools compete for clinical sites and this partnership will prove beneficial as that competition continues to grow with the burgeoning demand for nurses.”

Another element of the RMU-SCH partnership is an enhanced RN-to-BSN program, to help SCH nurses with associate degrees and nursing school diplomas earn a baccalaureate degree. This RN-to-BSN program is part of an effort to align the Hospital with the 2010 Institute of Medicine Report on the Future of Nursing, which recommended that 80% of nurses have a BSN degree by 2020. With the new partnership, RMU is offering onsite support at St. Clair for nurses in the program by placing a member of the RMU faculty at the Hospital once a week, to facilitate their academic success. The first faculty member to fulfill that role is none other than Dr. Englert herself, who offers technological support, help with scholarly writing and encouragement.

In the third component of the new partnership, St. Clair will serve as a site for research for RMU students in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program. At RMU, nurse practitioners are prepared at the doctoral level.

There are mutual benefits to the academic service partnership, Dr. Englert says. “This partnership capitalizes on the strengths of both institutions, and both institutions will gain advantages. RMU is getting a prime clinical placement; St. Clair is an amazing hospital, known for excellence in nursing. The registered nurses will have an opportunity to teach in the DEU program, and St. Clair will be in a position to recruit RMU nursing students to take a position at St. Clair after graduation.”

Diane L. Puccetti, RN, BSN, MS, chief nursing officer for St. Clair, echoes Dr. Englert’s enthusiasm. “It’s a joy and a pleasure to have this relationship with RMU. They have a wonderful nursing program with many assets, including a beautiful state-of-the-art simulation lab. Our nursing staff is very engaged in the new DEU program, and St. Clair nurses are signing on for the RN-to-BSN program as well. RMU and St. Clair are great partners and we are excited about all the possibilities as we move forward.”

For more information about nursing education at Robert Morris University, visit www.rmu.edu.



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