Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

Outcomes of Cooperative Education in a Baccalaureate Program IN NURSING

Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

Outcomes of Cooperative Education in a Baccalaureate Program IN NURSING

Article excerpt


Cooperative education, or co-op, an educational model in which students alternate periods of study with academic-related employment, is a required component of the nursing program at Northeastern University. Students in the five-year baccalaureate program complete three six-month co-op experiences. While on co-op, students function as full-time, unlicensed assistants in a wide variety of specialties and settings. The School of Nursing works closely with individual nurse managers and human resource professionals at more than 55 health care agencies to maintain attractive co-op opportunities for students. A study was conducted in 2003 to 1) identify and compare activities and outcomes of co-op reported by students with those reported by their nurse managers and 2) determine if the type of activities and outcomes reported by students changed as they progressed through co-op experiences. Findings revealed consistency in the proportion of activities and outcomes reported by students and managers. The most commonly reported activities were Routine Care and Procedures and Assessment and Evaluation. Both groups reported affective outcomes most frequently, followed by cognitive and multidimensional outcomes. As students progressed through co-op experiences, only minor differences were noted in the types of activities they performed; the learning outcomes students achieved changed only slightly.

Key Words Cooperative Education * Clinical Education * Baccalaureate Nursing Education * Innovative Educational Models * Transitional Programs

COOPERATIVE EDUCATION (co-op) is an educational model in which students alternate periods of academic study with periods of paid employment related to their academic major or personal interests (1-3). Only two baccalaureate nursing programs in the United States incorporate co-op as a required curriculum component. This article describes the cooperative education nursing curriculum at Northeastern University (NU), located in the heart of Boston, and reports on a study of nursing co-op outcomes. * Northeastern adopted a cooperative model of education in 1909 and it remains a hallmark of the institution. Today, the university enrolls 14,000 undergraduates in six colleges and offers more than 70 undergraduate majors and concentrations. Most are five-year programs that include 12 to 18 months of co-op. The U.S. News & World Report has ranked NU among the top universities in offering practice-oriented education (4). * Co-op has been part of the nursing curriculum since the inception of the program in 1964. Today, the School of Nursing enrolls over 500 undergraduates. It also offers a master's program with several nursing specializations and a direct entry-to-master's degree program for applicants who hold a BA/BS in fields other than nursing. * Recent data indicate that the co-op model attracts nursing students to NU; 85 percent of freshman and transfer nursing students in the past two years reported co-op as one of the main reasons they selected the program. Baccalaureate students admitted as freshmen complete three six-month co-op experiences. Those who transfer in at year three (known as the middler year at NU) complete two four-month co-ops.

The Co-op Learning Model Co-op periods alternate with academic terms during which students take required nursing courses (Table 1). They do not replace the clinical aspect of the nursing curriculum; rather, they help students build on the skills and experiences they have amassed. Prior to their first co-op experience, students complete courses in health assessment and basic nursing techniques.

Co-op consists of three phases: preparation, activity, and reflection. Preparation begins with enrollment in a one-credit, semester-long introductory course that is taught by a co-op coordinator, a full-time employee of the university who has credentials in nursing or career counseling and management. The course exposes students to co-op job opportunities in acute care, community, ambulatory care, and long-term care settings. …

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