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School of Nursing, Summerlin Hospital First in State to Create Innovative Mentoring Program

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Dedicated Education Unit Program will give practicing nurses an active role in nursing education
Business & Community  |  Jan 26, 2012  |  By UNLV Media Relations
Media Contact: Megan Downs, Office of Media Relations (702) 895-0898

UNLV and Summerlin Hospital Medical Center are taking an innovative approach to clinical nursing education by allowing students more time with bedside nurses in the hospital setting. The program is the first in Nevada and only one of 19 in the United States.

The Dedicated Education Unit (DEU) program teams UNLV nursing students with Summerlin nurses, offering students an opportunity to improve patient care and learn directly from a nursing mentor. The method also is beneficial to nurses and patients because it gives nurses an opportunity to share their expertise and have an active role in what students learn.

"This is an excellent way to educate the next generation of nurses and keep nursing staff fresh and motivated in their roles as mentors and role models," said UNLV nursing professor and project lead Trisha Gatlin. Gatlin developed a similar program while at the University of Portland.

In a typical clinical education setting, one nursing school faculty member is accompanied by eight students. Students work on the unit once a week for six hours with hospital staff nurses, but are not supervised by them. It's common for hospitals to host nursing students and faculty from different schools daily, making it unclear to the nursing staff at a hospital which school is visiting or which level of student is on the unit at any given time.

The existing format can lead to inconsistency for students, and a stressful environment for nurses who already have a complex workload.

Under the new DEU model, selected Summerlin nurses are trained by Gatlin to directly supervise students. These nurses supervise two or three students at one time and only work with nursing students from UNLV. The new initiative gives staff nurses the time needed to help students develop professional skills and deliver effective patient care. A UNLV faculty member also is present to reinforce teaching and provide support to the clinical instructor.

"The students, our nurses and our patients will benefit in the long term from this partnership," said Lynnette Ball, chief nursing officer at Summerlin Hospital. "Developing qualified future nurses and other health care workers is everyone's role. Summerlin Hospital is very pleased and excited to participate in this landmark project for the state of Nevada."

School of Nursing Dean Carolyn Yucha said she believes that the partnership will encourage more UNLV nursing graduates to stay and work in Nevada after graduating.

"Summerlin will benefit by having students familiar with the hospital's policies and procedures and who understand how nurses function together to provide care to their patients," Yucha said. "Students who fit the unit culture will likely be hired upon graduation. Ultimately the patients of Las Vegas will be the recipients of improved clinical education for nurses."

The proposed DEU for Southern Nevada is a pilot project this year with 26 second-year nursing students, selected at random. The Nursing School and hospital officials hope to expand the project to more students next semester.