Niagara University’s innovative partnership with Catholic Health was on display during a recent national conference on Enhancing Nursing Undergraduate Teaching and Learning in the Clinical Setting.
The conference, which was hosted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, widely recognized for its leadership in healthcare and nursing initiatives, and the Department of Veteran Affairs, focused on nursing education with an emphasis on creative approaches in a time of shortage of faculty and clinical settings, despite an increased demand for nurses.
A poster presentation, entitled Catholic Health/Niagara University RN to BS Nursing Collaborative, highlighted the 2-year-old collaboration between the organizations. The partnership was formed in August 2009 to enable registered nurses to advance their education through the support of their employer, Catholic Health, and the cooperation of Niagara’s department of nursing. The poster was created and presented by M.K. Vause, a nursing education specialist for Catholic Health, NU faculty members Ann Marie MacIsaac and Dr. Connie Jozwiak-Shields, and Dr. Frances Crosby, chairperson of NU’s nursing department.
A cohort of 25 nurses from Catholic Health currently participate in Niagara’s program, which is designed for working nurses to complete their Bachelor of Science in nursing. Cost and accessibility barriers were eliminated when Catholic Health agreed to cover tuition, books and purchase a laptop computer for each student.
Prior to the launch of the program, a rigorous selection process was designed to maximize each nurse’s success. While the nurses made a commitment to adjust their schedules to accommodate class times, Niagara agreed to hold sessions on a single day at a convenient location for all participants. The curriculum was supplemented with several online classes.
When the partnership was announced, Catholic Health viewed it as a way to invest in its future.
“This partnership will give our nurses the tools they need to grow within the profession and take on more challenging roles within our system,” said Michael Moley, the company’s senior vice president of human resources.
With the impending shortage of nurses coupled with a predicted demand for increased services as a result of healthcare reform, this is an opportunity to prepare the next generation of nursing leaders.
As the nursing students begin their final internship, Catholic Health will soon reap the rewards of their investment. In this final capstone course, nurses incorporate all of their recent learning into conducting a project that aims to improve the quality and safety of patient care. They are guided during this process by an NU faculty member and an experienced Catholic Health nurse preceptor.
The nurses in the first cohort have completed about half of the program, which started in January of 2010. In addition to their own hard work and commitment, the support of their employer (Catholic Health) and their academic institution (Niagara University) has been an essential ingredient in the students’ success. This model exemplifies an effective approach to aligning industry and academia to address the future of the nursing profession.
For more information on Niagara University’s RN-to-BS program, please visit www.niagara.edu/nursing-rn-to-bs.