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College of Nursing Academic-Practice Partnership with Le Bonheur Receives National Recognition

Participants in the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) training receive classroom instruction in the Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation at UTHSC. The SANE program is a direct result of the academic-practice partnership and demonstrates the community impact of the partnership.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Nursing and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital are being recognized with the 2023 American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Exemplary Academic-Practice Partnership Award. It is one of three academic-practice partnerships that will be acknowledged during the upcoming AACN Academic Nursing Leadership Conference October 28-30 in Washington, DC.

Established in 2016, this innovative partnership enabled advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) at Le Bonheur to transition to full-time faculty roles in the College of Nursing at UTHSC while maintaining full clinical practice. The APRNs who are clinical faculty members maintain a role that is 95% clinical practice and 5% teaching. Forty APRNs at Le Bonheur are on the clinical faculty at the college, and several others serve as volunteer faculty.

“Our vision for this innovative academic-practice partnership stems from our mutual desire to improve clinical outcomes and advance nursing practice and science using an integrated, strategic approach,” said College of Nursing Dean Wendy Likes, PhD, DNSc, APRN-BC, FAANP.

Le Bonheur Director of Advanced Practice Beth Paton, DNP, PNP-AC/PC, CPEN, FAEN, cited many benefits of the partnership.

“It provides access to specialized clinical expertise for the students and increases resources for the APRNs to enhance their professional development. As I was preparing the document for submission for this award, I was so proud of the team as I reflected on everything they have accomplished over the last few years. It is amazing and certainly highlights the benefits of an academic-practice partnership. I am even more proud to now be able to share our story at the national level,” she said.

Thanks to the tuition waiver that clinical faculty receive, nine Le Bonheur APRNs have earned a terminal degree and three more have enrolled in a doctoral level program since the partnership’s inception. Eleven APRNs have earned specialty certifications, and two are enrolled in a post-master’s certificate program.

UTHSC nursing students also have benefited from the partnership. In 2022, Le Bonheur APRNs provided more than 4,200 hours of clinical opportunities for advanced practice nursing students in the college. The APRNs also mentored 13 bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) students to demonstrate the role of the APRN in pediatric specialty care.

The community impact has been important and far-reaching. In 2021, a clinical faculty APRN collaborated with the college to submit a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant for sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) training. A $1.5 million HRSA grant was awarded in June 2021, allowing the college to launch a SANE certification program. Fifty nurses were trained in the first two years, and 25 more are being trained in the grant’s third year through the community program. Four more APRNS have earned the academic certificate in Forensic Nursing, and five more began working toward the certificate in July.

The academic-practice partnership also has reached out into the community through the annual Pediatric Advanced Practice Provider Conference sponsored by Le Bonheur, the College of Nursing, and the local chapter of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP). Now in its fifth year, the “Best Practice, Best Care” conference has the goal of bringing specialized pediatric knowledge to hospital-based and rural community providers who care for children. More than 80 APRNS from the Mid-South attended the conference in 2022.

As Dr. Likes looks to the future of the partnership, she said, “We hope to continue to measure the clinical and academic outcomes and demonstrate the value of strategic, academic partnerships.