On Thurs., September 21, Belmont University hosted the launch of a new Web site designed to help nursing students access training more easily than ever before. At the kick-off, the Tennessee Center for Nursing (TCN), the Regional Clinical Placement Partnership of Middle Tennessee (RCPP-MT) and Belmont University introduced the Tennessee Online Clinical Placement Program, a cutting-edge plan to increase access to clinical placements for nursing students by integrating the best ideas from nursing leaders across the state. This user-friendly site, which will be accessed at http://www.centerfornursing.org/, connects schools of nursing with clinical training opportunities at health care agencies in Tennessee, eliminating the burdensome task of individual contacts, paper filing and word-of-mouth.
“The new site enhances our ability to put students in direct care experiences and streamlines what has previously been a complicated process,” Dr. Debra Wollaber, dean of Belmont University’s Gordon E. Inman College of Health Sciences & Nursing, past president of TCN and co-facilitator of the program, says. “It also provides a huge cost and time savings for the students and instructors.”
A year ago, nursing faculty seeking clinical placement opportunities for their students would have spent hours, sometimes weeks, identifying and negotiating clinical care training opportunities, she says. Access to open opportunities was isolated, limited and difficult. The process was just as laborious for clinical facilities trying to accommodate placement requests from schools of nursing.
Plus, students had to complete a tedious orientation process prior to the start of each clinical training rotation. “Now students can complete their orientation online quickly and easily. And JCAHO [Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations] only requires it once a year. The entire process has been greatly improved,” Wollaber said.
After seeing software from the Oregon Center for Nursing (OCN) demonstrated at a nationwide meeting last year, TCN’s Executive Director, Ann Duncan, and Wollaber were inspired to combine the best elements from several health centers online into one central, universal site. According to information from TCN, the site not only allows participating schools to view available clinical placement opportunities instantly online, but will also let site managers view the number of students who will be on their unit on any shift.
The Regional Clinical Placement Partnership of Middle TN piloted the online program last spring with three schools of nursing (Aquinas College, Cumberland University and MTSU) and four hospitals (Sumner, St. Thomas, Middle Tennessee Medical Center and Skyline). In the pilot alone, 43 new placement opportunities were identified—a 22 percent increase in just the first few months. That leaves room for 410 more students at these sites, a 28 percent increase in those that can be accommodated.
The partnership was developed in response to the nation’s rising public health care crisis whose statistics forecast a shortage of close to 808,000 qualified registered nurses (RNs) in the US (a 29 percent shortage) by the year 2020, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. “With the projected decline in the number of registered nurses in the US and the growing need for quality nursing care, comes a surge in the demand for facilitating the clinical education process,” Wollaber says. “We’re hoping that our program can serve as a model for others around the country to join the effort.”
The National League for Nursing estimates that over 125,000 qualified applicants to RN programs in the US were turned away by nursing schools last year due to a lack of clinical training sites and a shortage of nursing faculty. “We implemented the program to address the shortage and capacity issues,” Dr. Lois Wagner, Associate Director of Research for TCN, also part of the RCPP-MT, says. “The advantages are profound. This is important to Belmont, to our clinical placement partnerships, and to the entire health care community.”
The RCPP-MT is a partnership between schools of nursing, allied health care facilities, and other entities to develop, implement and streamline student clinical placements.