Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

Vermont Nurse Internship Project: A Collaborative Enterprise Developed by Nurse Leaders from Education, Practice, and Regulation

Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

Vermont Nurse Internship Project: A Collaborative Enterprise Developed by Nurse Leaders from Education, Practice, and Regulation

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT The Vermont Nursing Internship Project supports the nurse's entry into practice along a continuum of expertise. Developed and supported by a coalition of nurse leaders inclusive of practice settings, education, and regulation, it provides one structure for use in all hospitals throughout the state. A tool for assessing competence in eight core areas was developed. Along with emphasis placed on developing and supporting new RNs, there is equal recognition for developing the skills of preceptors. Analysis of an initial pilot study resulted in modifications and then implementation as a second pilot. The outcomes of the second pilot show a continued improvement in the transition process from school to work.

BY PROVIDING NOVICE NURSES WITH THE CLINICAL EXPERIENCE NEEDED TO PRACTICE IN ORGANIZED HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS, THE VERMONT NURSE INTERNSHIP PROJECT STRENGTHENS THE NurSING WORKFORCE. The project supports the nurse's entry into practice and growth along a continuum of expertise, and it develops essential leadership skills as nurses take their place within the complex and demanding field of health care delivery.

At the core of this initiative is the Vermont Organization of Nurse Leaders (VONL). This group recently updated its name, bylaws, and membership guidelines to support a shift in image and focus. From a group exclusive to nurse executives, it now encompasses all nurses in leadership roles. The creation of one organization that encourages collaboration among staff development specialists, nurse managers, nurse executives, academic educators, clinical specialists, nurse consultants, and researchers represents a giant step forward in linking nursing education and practice.

The first priority of the reorganized group was evaluation of growing nursing workforce issues. The VONL Report on Nursing in Vermont confirmed that the state shared the same nursing workforce concerns that were becoming apparent across the nation (1). Hospitals had become crisis-driven workplaces where only the highest acuity, medically challenged, older, and more vulnerable patients were treated. With advances in health care technology, nurses were required to increase their clinical expertise in patient assessment and the delivery of interventions.

As a second step, VONL convened a task force to develop strategic goals related to the identified workforce issues. The resulting report, Current State of Nursing in Vermont (2), identified the need for six initiatives. Among the goals that emerged, two are as follows: 1) Create a formal nursing internship program that provides adequate practical clinical experience for novice nurses to function at a competent level when they enter the workforce. This would force a marriage of schools of nursing and fields of practice that could strengthen both institutions, while promoting the preparation of nurses able to handle the currently complex and demanding field of health care. 2) Expand the clinical opportunities for students by increasing the use of clinical staff as preceptors in specialty areas.

To achieve these goals, key stakeholders within nursing practice, education, and regulation forged a partnership known as the VT Nurse Internship Coalition to implement the Nurse Internship Project. By promoting the successful transition of the graduate nurse into the workplace, the coalition anticipated that the internship project would change the culture of the workplace, shifting it toward support of novice nurses in their continuum toward excellence. The coalition also designed the Preceptor Education and Credentialing Program to develop leadership skills and professionalism among RN care providers for the support of internship delivery.

The first postgraduate internship was piloted during the summer of 2000 with 54 participants. To date, preceptor education has impacted over 300 direct care providers statewide. Representatives from nursing education and practice also convened a Blue Ribbon Commission on Nursing to address Vermont's nursing shortage. …

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