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UNLV School of Nursing, Valley Health System Expand Dedicated Education Unit Program

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Students get enhanced clinical training through focused learning with staff nurses and lower instructor-to-student ratio. Partnership began at Summerlin Hospital in 2012, expands to Spring Valley Hospital this fall.
Campus News  |  Aug 20, 2014  |  By Kevin Dunegan
Media Contact: Kevin Dunegan (702) 895-3259
UNLV School of Nursing students will gain clinical experience working in The Valley Health System hospitals. (Geri Kodey/UNLV Photo Services)

Students at the UNLV School of Nursing will have more opportunities for hands-on clinical experiences this fall when The Valley Health System expands the Dedicated Education Unit (DEU) program to a second hospital.

Students in the DEU program partner with dedicated staff nurses each semester and assist in caring for the nurses' assigned patients. Unlike other clinical programs that have instructor-to-student ratios of one to eight or more, the staff nurses in the DEU mentor one to two students.

The UNLV School of Nursing and The Valley Health System opened the first DEU in Southern Nevada during spring 2012 at Summerlin Hospital. The second will open this fall at Spring Valley Hospital. These are the only DEUs in the state and both are available to UNLV students only.

The UNLV nursing program comprises four semesters of 15 consecutive weeks. Students in their second and third semesters spend one 12-hour shift in the DEU every other week. Students in their fourth semester may spend as many as three 12-hours shifts each week. School of Nursing faculty work with the staff nurses in the DEU to ensure the students receive the appropriate level of instruction and training.

In addition to opening the new unit, The Valley Health System made a three-year gift to the university that will help the School of Nursing hire one full-time faculty member who will focus on the DEU.

"Our partnership with The Valley Health System made the DEU a reality and helps better prepare future nurses for their profession," said Carolyn Yucha, dean of the School of Nursing. "Staff nurses appreciate the assistance and the opportunity to ready students for the realities of health care, which translates to enhanced attention for current and future patients."

The DEU program also provides hiring managers with a first look at prospective employees, and nurse leaders within the hospitals are able to recommend updates or improvements to our curriculum, Yucha added.

Karla Perez, vice president of Acute Division for United Health Services, Inc., which owns The Valley Health System, also appreciates the benefits of the DEU model.

"We see multiple benefits with our UNLV partnership," Perez said. "Nurses are considered the backbone of a hospital and the DEU gives students an opportunity to hone their clinical skills, understand the needs of patients and families, and learn the dynamics of working in a hospital. The opportunity to work directly with staff nurses and interact with other health care professionals such as physicians, physical, occupational and speech therapists, respiratory therapists, lab techs, and dieticians is invaluable."

More than 250 nursing students, representing more than 25,000 hours of direct patient care education, have refined their skills in the DEU since it opened.