Academic Practice Partnerships: Mutual Benefits and Sustainability of a Dedicated Educational Unit

Friday, 28 July 2017: 10:45 AM

Cecilia McVey, MHA
VA Boston Healthcare System, West Roxbury, MA, USA
Donna M. Glynn, PhD, MSN
School of Nursing and Health Sciences, Simmons College, Boston, MA, USA

Purpose:  In 2007, the Northeast Region VA Nursing Alliance (NERVANA) was founded. NERVANA is an academic-practice partnership between the VA Boston/Bedford Health Care Systems and six schools of nursing which include: Boston College, Northeastern University, Regis College, Simmons College, University of Massachusetts Boston and University of Massachusetts Lowell. NERVANA’s mission, derived from the VA’s parent mission is as follows: “To employ an innovative educational model to expand and enrich nursing students and faculty, to educate nursing students in the care of veterans, and to expose nursing students to the advanced model of medical informatics, patient safety, quality improved and integrated systems of care employed by the VA’s National Healthcare System”. Although the NERVANA schools are among some of the most prestigious in the nation and located in the heart of a healthcare mecca, none is a component of an academic medical center. Thus, this consortium offers unique opportunities both for the schools and the VA Boston/Bedford alike. Goals for NERVANA are in congruence with the guiding principles for Academic –Practice Partnerships developed by AACN and AONE. The VA system provides the most comprehensive healthcare system in the country and therefore provides an experience to students and residents unlike any other they have had in their clinical experiences.

The partners share the vision for sustaining the mission and supportive activites of NERVANA. The VA Boston/Bedford Healthcare Systems and the academic partners take great pride in sharing mutual expertise to develop future nurses of America as well as sharing the important work the VA Provides to the veteran population. One of the primary goals of the partnership is to create and expand the Dedicated Educational Units for clinical education. The concepts and implementation of DEU and inter-professional education are examples of collaborative undergraduate BSN education that VA nurses have embraced with the support of the academic partners.

The purpose of this research was to examine the outcomes of the Northeast Region VA Nursing Alliance with emphasis on the creation and implementation of the DEU model of education. The research will evaluate the goals of the partnership and evaluate the sustainability of the alliance.

Methods:  This retrospective research reviewed the advisory board, steering committee, and Dean's committee minutes for the past 9 years. The goals and outcomes of the academic practice partnership were evaluated and the impact of the DEU intervention related to clinical education was reviewed. Specific components to maintain the sucess of the DEU were identified and sustainability related to partnership interactions, activities and collaborative efforts were addressed.

Results: The benefits of the academic-practice partnership related to the DEU model and sustainability were evident in the results. An increased number of VA staff nurses are currently serving in the role of NERVANA faculty. The number of nursing students has dramatically increased within the VA system and preceptor workshops have been incorporated by the academic partners to support the staff nurses. A total of 4 acute care DEUs are currently in place, 1 interprofessional acute care DEU, 2 long term care DEUs and 2 Senior Capstone DEUs have been created and implemented. Through these nursing experiences, applications for positions within the VA after graduation are expanding and the VA Boston Nurse Residency program has achieved CCNE accreditation.

The academic practice partnership created and initiated the "Care of the American Veteran" series in 2009. The academic partners host educational presentations related to veteran specific topics on campus for all members of the college communities. Topics have included traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, PTSD, homelessness, dementia, military sexual trauma and care of the female veteran.


Based on the continued creation of DEUs and clinical educational partnerships and activities, the sustainability of the DEU and expansion of the NERVANA initative is evident. Through this ongoing partnership, high quality, veteran-centered care will be provided to the next generation of nurses. Future research should focus on specific patient care outcomes related to the academic-practice partnership and the expansion of the DEU model of education