Service Learning in RN to BSN Leadership Service Learning

Sunday, 8 November 2015: 11:20 AM

Cheryl Moseley Conway, MSN, RN-BC, NE-BC
School of Nursing, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC, USA

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Future of Nursing Report, there need to be innovative strategies to meet the goals to attain the education percentages set forth by 2020. The Western Carolina University RN to BSN Program includes a leadership practicum in which the student spends 60 precepted hours with a preceptor with his/her BSN or higher nursing degree in a nursing leadership role.


The leadership practicum has a dual course component which includes a professional synthesis project that is an approved service learning course by the University and completed during the semester. Miller and Anderson (2007) describe service learning as a student educational experience with participation in community partnership for academic credit. The model is based upon transformational leadership and the facilitation of the relationship between the preceptor and the student during the semester. The leadership professional synthesis project focus is a leadership topic that is both needed by the site and a learning opportunity for the student.

Description of Innovation

The RN completing the RN to BSN program engages in the experience of collaborating with his or her preceptor to establish a leadership project topic that is of service to the site and a learning opportunity. This experience provides the opportunity to build skills in finding evidence-based resources, communicate, and foster time-management. The student documents weekly field notes toward completing the project and shares experiences during the semester.

Implications for Practice

The leadership practicum experience creates a new awareness for many students. During synchronous sessions, students share comments about presenting for the first time, seeing leadership roles “from a new perspective”, enjoying the work on projects, and a feeling of empowerment that was not felt previously. During the semester, there are emerging leadership skills that develop as students seek information and present findings. Previous project topics have included: seeking evidence-based information for a grant; participating on a role-description planning team; gathering evidence-based data for a  new orientee guide; finding evidence-based information for policy revisions/guideline revisions; participating in audits/preparation for accreditation; preparing for Magnet designation; gathering information for Beacon Award preparation; education RNs about nursing incivility, and many other ideas. These emerging BSNs have shared comments about being empowered through the process of being precepted/mentored and creating a project that would be used in the practice setting.