Collaborative learning for health care students receives $200,000 Grant

UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing and the Interior Health Authority have received a $200,000 grant from the B.C. Academic Health Council's Practice Education Innovation Fund to establish Collaborative and Interprofessional Learning Units for nursing and other health care students completing their practicum experience at hospitals and community agencies in the region. The provincial government is providing an additional $30,000 for this initiative.

Deb McCullough, Associate Professor with UBC Okanagan's School of Nursing, and Linda Sawchenko, Regional Practice Leader with the Interior Health Authority, note that the project will take two forms:

  • Creating Collaborative Learning Units (CLUs) for senior nursing students doing their practica within Kelowna General Hospital’s ortho/neuro surgical unit, and in the surgical units at Vernon Jubilee Hospital and Penticton Regional Hospital
  • Establishing Interprofessional CLUs (IPCLUs) for students practicing in hospital and community settings. The IPCLUs will build on earlier experiences with CLUs and the Interprofessional Rural Placement Program in the Kootenay Boundary and Okanagan health service areas.

"It's imperative that educational institutions and health care agencies create innovative practice education models," says Sawchenko. "Ongoing health care restructuring, associated pressures on practice agencies, retirement of the baby boomer generation and increasing enrolments in professional programs have all contributed to make the allocation of practice experiences extremely challenging."

The principal goal of the CLU program is to provide nursing students with quality practice education that promotes both practice and job readiness and enhances the transition to the new graduate role, McCullough says.

"An integral piece of practice education is experienced staff assisting students in translating academic knowledge into practice," McCullough explains. "All multidisciplinary members on a CLU support the student as they learn and work with a variety of team members. Many staff members with multiple perspectives contribute to an environment that maximizes learning opportunities and is rich in sharing and feedback."

"This program creates a positive, team-based learning approach where students apply their knowledge and gain valuable skills in health care settings," said Health Minister George Abbott. "Students will learn a model of collaborative practice that will provide them an easier transition into the workforce and this will result in better patient care. Since 2001, government has invested $146 million through the BC Nursing Strategy to educate, recruit and retain the best qualified nurses in British Columbia."

"The educational institution provides faculty support and supervision. The collaboration between the students, faculty, and all members of the multidisciplinary team on the unit supports the ultimate goal of creating a positive learning environment for all and providing high quality care for clients," says Sawchenko.

The program will be evaluated in several ways, including gathering feedback after the students involved in the project graduate and become Registered Nurses (RNs). This feedback will be requested from the practice managers perspective regarding how the CLU/IPCLU model influenced the transition of the graduate to the role of novice RN, and from the novice RN as to how the model influenced their transition to the RN role and responsibilities.

"The IPCLU experience also enhances the ability for practice and academia to work together on research projects and knowledge development," McCullough notes. "The potential exists for research opportunities where faculty, staff and students can be simultaneously exploring the same issue from different perspectives."

McCullough and Sawchenko intend to present lessons learned from this project at the International Practice Education Conference in Vancouver in November 2007.

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