Clinic immersion pilot gives nursing students real-world experience

In August 2018, the University of Iowa College of Nursing approached the Department of Nursing Services and Patient Care about partnering with Ambulatory Nursing to set up a first-semester immersion experience for nursing students in the ambulatory setting. A team from Ambulatory Nursing administration and the UI College of Nursing met to carry out the vision. The team included April Prunty, MSN, RN, lecturer from the UI College of Nursing; Melissa Gross, MSN, RN, CNRN, director, Ambulatory Nursing; Suzy Hammer-White, MSN/MHA, RN, CNML, nursing practice leader; and Cara Holub, MSN, RN, nursing practice leader from Ambulatory Nursing Administration.

Students were assigned one-to-one with either a registered nurse (RN) or medical assistant (MA) for a four-hour block of time in October and December 2018. The goal was to provide these students the opportunity to work on their communication skills, which included greeting the patient, introducing themselves, obtaining vital signs, and sharing these findings with the RN or MA. Traditionally, learning for such skill sets in the first semester occurs in a lab setting with peers. The clinical immersion experience in an ambulatory setting early in the students’ education enhances the educational experience in a “real world” setting and increases their comfort level in communicating with patients, families, and health care providers.

Nursing lecturer Prunty noted, “There is an increasing need to offer opportunities for students to engage with patients early in their nursing education. The clinic immersion pilot was an incredible partnership that would not have been possible without the support of the participating clinics from UI Health Care. We are incredibly lucky to have this collaboration that offers such a unique and rewarding experience for our students.”

This collaboration resulted in:

  • Number of first-semester nursing students participating: 72
  • Number of clinics participating: 16
  • Number of hours each student spent in an ambulatory setting: 8.5
  • Total number of hours ambulatory clinicians committed to the immersion experience: 1,224

Students were surveyed after the initial immersion experience in October and provided the following feedback:

  • 81% of students indicated an increased understanding of the patient experience in ambulatory settings.
  • 62% indicated feeling more comfortable communicating with
  • patients.
  • 77% indicated feeling more comfortable communicating with
  • health care providers.
  • 86% indicated the clinic immersion was a worthwhile learning experience.

“I think the clinical immersion experience was very valuable. It was nice to get to work with MAs and RNs in settings outside of the inpatient units we’re in for clinicals. I liked seeing a patient population I’m not used to, and I liked the ability to do vitals on people with real illness rather than our healthy classmates.”

–Nursing student