News | July 25, 2007

Course Gives Student Nurses the Power to Make a Difference

July 26, 2007 - Master's degree nursing students from UMass Dartmouth are leaving their mark in the healthcare realm. A course called "Translating Knowledge to Practice," sends them into local facilities to partner with nurse leaders in the agency to improve practice and negotiate change.

Now in its fifth run, the program represents the culmination of their studies and replaces the thesis model, according to Professor Nancy Dluhy. "The trend is to move away from a thesis which is all theoretical and instead give the students more of a flavor of how they'll function in a team interdisciplinary situation outside in the world of practice."

As a final project, the students partner with a health care system with outcomes and see it through to completion. Last fall, UMass Dartmouth teamed up with Charlton Memorial Hospital and the Visiting Nurses Association (VNA) of Southeastern Massachusetts, both in Fall River. During the spring 2007 semester, practice partners included St. Anne's Hospital in Fall River, the Southcoast Hospitals System, the Fall River and New Bedford chapters of the American Cancer Society, and the Greater New Bedford Health Center.

"Our students are embedding themselves in the community," said Professor Sharon Sousa, who oversaw the course. "They are working with champions to make a difference and accomplish tremendous things. They learn how to work with people and deal with resistance to change. This (experience) puts them at the forefront in community health initiatives."

Examples of past projects include:

-continuation of stroke initiatives in the Southcoast Hospitals Group, specifically investigating and refining an evidence-based process to evaluate patients to see if they qualify for blood clot dissolving drugs;
-the teaching of protocols regarding falls and medicines that aggravate falls at the VNA, including developing an outline evaluation card for nurses to carry in their pockets;
-expansion of a pneumococcal vaccine initiative at Charlton Memorial Hospital.

During the spring semester, projects ranged from educating the public about the importance of colonoscopy screenings in conjunction with the American Cancer Society and the proper use of nebulizers for asthma with the Greater New Bedford Health Center to assessing family involvement during cardiac arrest emergencies at St. Anne's Hospital.

The "Back to Sleep" project at Charlton involves educating parents and staff members to put babies on their backs to sleep rather than their stomachs. This practice will cut down on incidences of Sudden Infant Death (SID) and break a long-standing myth, according to Dluhy.

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