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College of Nursing Spotlight: Paving the Way for Nursing Education

Students in the College of Nursing receive hands-on training in a simulation setting.

Tracing its history to 1887, making it the oldest college of nursing school in the state of Tennessee, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Nursing has been paving the way for nursing education and it continues.

Simulation training is on the top of its list. Across the country, nursing education has been ahead of the game when it comes to simulation training and the UTHSC College of Nursing has been training its faculty on use around simulation, revising curriculum to insure that’s intentionally built into the training and education of students.

“Simulation is going to be really important because there are scenarios and circumstances you can’t always get in the clinical setting with students,” said Wendy Likes, PhD, DNSc, APRN-BC, FAANP, dean of the UTHSC College of Nursing. “To be able to teach students how to respond appropriately is going to be extremely important.”

Another important area being addressed in training is interprofessional education and communication. UTHSC is in the final stages to complete a new state-of-the-art $36.7 million Interprofessional Simulation and Patient Safety Center which will allow all six colleges to train together in a simulation setting.

“Errors in the hospital, including medication errors, is related to poor communication and our ability to bring everyone together in a simulation center with scenarios where students will learn how to work together as a team, communicate better, and problem solve and participate in teams, is critical to health care,” Dr. Likes said.

Offering programs of study at baccalaureate (BSN, RN-BSN) and doctorate (PhD and DNP) levels, the UTHSC College of Nursing is also preparing the future generation of nurses, starting at the associates level, by partnering with local colleges on partnership enrollment programs.

The College of Nursing had a 100 percent first-time pass rate for the National Council Licensure Examination (NLCEX) for its two most-recent BSN graduating class.

The UTHSC College of Nursing Partnership Enrollment Programs (PEPs) with Southwest Tennessee Community College and Dyersburg State Community College were designed for students who are working toward completion of an associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing. Interested students can be automatically enrolled into the UTHSC College of Nursing’s RN to BSN program following completion of their degree.

“Reaching out to students while enrolled in community colleges introduces them to the seamless entrance into baccalaureate, or maybe even eventually doctoral education available at UTHSC,” said Melody Waller, PhD, MSN, RN, assistant professor, RN-BSN coordinator. “We’re increasing students’ awareness that getting a BSN, DNP, or PhD is really an attainable goal. By explaining the differences in our BSN program and their current course of study, students begin to see the importance of furthering their education and the difference it can make in providing quality nursing care in our ever-changing health care environment.”

The partnership enrollment programs allow students to have access to academic advising, ease of coursework transfer, observance of nursing classes and simulated clinical experiences, preregistration priority for courses during the first semester after licensure, and waived admission fees.

Students enrolled in the programs also have access to resources only available to UTHSC-enrolled students, including access to the UTHSC library, lectureships such as the Distinguished Visiting Professor Lecture Series, and free group tutoring for courses.

“Partnering with our local community colleges helps to expand our local nursing workforce and meet the needs of our local hospital partners to increase the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses working in their facilities,” said Dr. Waller.

A similar program with Rhodes College is being spearheaded by Shelley Hawkins, PhD, APRN-BC, FAANP, professor and associate dean of Academic Affairs in the College of Nursing. Currently under contract and with a goal to have a class in 2018, the program will allow students earning their baccalaureate degree at Rhodes to attend UTHSC to earn an advanced degree.

“Students at Rhodes end up really liking Memphis and they would like to stay in Memphis and get a degree,” said Wendy Likes, PhD, DNSc, APRN-BC, FAANP, dean of the College of Nursing. “We are trying to make it easier for these stellar graduates to be able to matriculate into our programs and help fill the gap in health care in nursing.”

She said the College of Nursing can provide unique experiences for students because it is a health science center and able to partner with all the other health professions on campus that students will work with on a daily bases when they get out of their program. “Our class sizes are smaller than other programs in the area — that is intentional,” she said. “We pay attention to our students, making sure they are getting a good experience and learning what they need to be successful.”