Advancing Nursing Education Through Interdisciplinary Learning: Student Quality & Safety Program

Tuesday, 31 July 2012: 3:30 PM

Adele M. Spegman, PhD, RN
Nursing Services, Geisinger Health System, Danville, PA
Christine Alichnie, PhD, RN
Department of Nursing, Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, PA

Learning Objective 1: Describe a process to enhance quality improvement and evidence based research skills through interdisciplinary collaboration between nursing and medical students.

Learning Objective 2: Describe 3 factors that support nursing students' participation on interdisciplinary teams and 3 factors that are viewed as obstacles.

Nursing competencies have expanded to address the complexities of contemporary healthcare. Patient-centered care and demands for transparent outcomes require nurses to have active roles in Quality Improvement (QI) processes (IOM, 2010). Collaborative applications of evidence-based care, a component of quality outcomes, highlight the significance of interdisciplinary partnerships (Thibault, 2011). Such skills must be purposely fostered in students. Although the Quality and Safety Education for Nursing project (Cronenwett, 2007) provides guidelines, students have few opportunities for interdisciplinary clinical learning. Little is reported about the education processes that facilitate effective teamwork. 

This presentation describes an innovative program for nursing and medical students. Developed by clinicians at a rural tertiary care facility, the hospital becomes a teaching/learning laboratory for QI and provides hands-on learning using real-time clinical issues. The curriculum emphasizes teamwork as an integral component of QI processes, awards academic credits and provides occasions for scholarly presentations. Teams of nursing and medical students work with a nurse/physician preceptor over two semesters. Interdisciplinary discussions and collaborative activities, designed around simulations of clinical issues, use unit-based data to develop aims, measures and action plans. Learning is then applied through participation in actual QI initiatives. 

Two cohorts of senior nursing (n = 42) and third-year medical (n=38) students have participated. Evaluations found significant increases in participants’ knowledge about QI processes. Students’ comments reflected the salience of QI training and appreciation of interdisciplinary learning. Obstacles, for nursing students, centered on nursing program challenges. The demands of 21st century healthcare necessitate purposeful collaboration among nursing faculty and clinicians. We must leverage and exploit novel learning opportunities, redesigning course activities and methods to evaluate learning. This program advances a model to encourage interdisciplinary partnerships.