Changing Courses: A Conversation with Connie Delaney

Article excerpt

Jim Meyer talks with Connie Delaney, dean of the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, about what nursing schools-and individual students-need to know and possess to thrive in these changing times.

Jim Meyer: I'd like to start by asking what you feel are the most important things that nursing students of today need to know about the realities of practice that they may not fully appreciate as they enter school.

Connie Delaney : I'll focus on prelicensure first. As students enter the workforce, they need to understand that despite some sectors of the health care economy being up and down at various times, the opportunities for nurses and nursing are basically unlimited and that these opportunities span a lifetime. These opportunities for contributing to the redesign of the health care system and the practice of nursing, as well as knowledge discovery and the teaching of that new knowledge, are basically unlimited.

We have more and more graduates who have degrees in other fields. I constantly reinforce to them the beauty of bringing these diverse areas of knowledge to nursing and the additional value they are bringing to the nursing profession. This diversity of thought is very welcome, and we consequently have an unprecedented opportunity for these new members of our profession to contribute to the expanded breadth as well as depth of nursing.

One of the potential vulnerable views in the education of our new graduates is being so nursing focused that we fail to realize that although that focus is necessary to the growth of our profession, what is of even greater importance is how nursing fits into and contributes to the whole: the health care system, the transformation of it, and how we foster the interprofessional contributions of our colleagues in the care of patients, families, and communities.

Meyer: This issue of Creative Nursing focuses a lot on how we can build better collaborations, though we are trained and retained as individuals. How do you assess and teach the ability to work with other colleagues and various specialties?

Delaney : I appreciate your comment about how we are trained as individuals. At this school, we actually are not. This school has taken a major lead in educating students (whether at the prelicensure, advanced practice, or research level) in the importance of interprofessional teamwork. We are one of the leaders at the University of Minnesota in fostering courses and learning opportunities for interprofessional learning experiences. We off er many opportunities for collaboration in research and scholarship as well as care, within partnerships in the Academic Health Center as well as in multiple health systems.

Meyer: What's the key to doing that successfully?

Delaney : One of the keys to success is having faculty that believe in the importance of teamwork and interprofessional education. In general, today's students are already accustomed to living more as team players and collaborators. When you match that with a faculty that's deeply commi.. ed to interprofessional and teamwork collaboration, you have the perfect synergy.

Meyer: Do you think students of today seem receptive to that approach?

Delaney : Absolutely. Most of our students have grown up that way. They also have life experience to know about systems thinking: that everything and everyone is interrelated and we need to work together.

Meyer: How do you work with colleagues in the industry to accept and assimilate the nurses you graduate?

Delaney : First, our orientation is that there is a synergy among the education, the clinical practice, and the scholarship we do. Each of these segments is interdependent with one another. We share our thoughts, experiences, questions, and issues. For example, medication errors: they occur in the clinical practice area but have a definite relationship to scholarship, research, and the education mission of schools of nursing. …