Building Relationships UMass, Cooley Dickinson Collaborate On Pilot Program For Nurse Education

AMHERST — The UMass School of Nursing and Cooley Dickinson Hospital (CDH) are working together to increase recruitment and retention of nurses by fostering ties among nursing faculty, students, and experienced nurses.
The university and CDH began the three-year pilot program this fall, offering clinical rotations and mentoring programs with CDH nurses to junior and senior UMass nursing students. The partnership is designed to help address the nationwide nursing shortage by developing a strategy to recruit nurses for future employment at CDH. Another goal is to retain expert nurses through professional development and provide opportunities for working nurses to obtain bachelor’s degrees at UMass.

Under the program, CDH is funding the placement of two UMass nursing facility members with 16 nursing students each semester on-site at the hospital for clinical coursework. In addition, UMass faculty members provide advice and support for CDH registered nurses to obtain bachelor’s degrees. Other aspects of the partnership include a nursing scholarship program, nurse-mentoring programs for middle- and high-school students, and a summer-intern program.

“We’re excited about the UMass/CDH Partnership,” said Eileen Breslin, dean of the university’s School of Nursing. “Working directly with retention and recruitment issues at the local community level can provide innovative solutions for current workforce at the national level. Collaboration and cooperation are the key elements between the education and practice. This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to experience this within the community.”

Catherine Neumann, CDH program director for medical and surgical services and interim senior nurse executive, agreed. “We see this collaboration as a major step in securing the future of the nursing profession in our community,” she said.

Professional development of CDH nursing staff is an important aspect of the partnership, Neumann said. In addition to consulting with and advising the CDH nursing staff, UMass faculty provide on-site recruitment, course evaluation, and mentoring for nurses to obtain bachelor’s degrees. CDH will provide the opportunity for 15 registered nurses to enroll in the UMass Nursing RN/BS track. Faculty are also working to enable prerequisite courses for the registered nurse program to be taught at CDH. The UMass faculty also serve as “culture brokers” between the two systems to enhance the relationship and increase the likelihood of UMass nursing students remaining at CDH upon graduation, Breslin said.

Supervised by UMass faculty and CDH nurses, junior and senior nursing students gain clinical nursing experience on the medical, surgical, and critical care units two days a week at the hospital. Ongoing plans include students rotating through other clinical areas, such as the Childbirth Center, emergency department, and VNA/home health services.

In addition, the UMass faculty members are available on-site at the hospital two days each week to the staff of CDH to assist with professional development projects and recruitment and retention activities.

Mary Ann Hogan, clinical assistant professor at the UMass School of Nursing, said a goal of the program is to create a match for both institutions.

“If students want to stay in the area, and are familiar with the staff and procedures of Cooley Dickinson Hospital, we may have found a local solution to a nationwide problem.”

Speaking about the students in the UMass/CDH partnership, Carol Silluzio, a CDH nurse, said, “These are the people that in a year or so will be our colleagues. It is nice to have a part in their education.”

The partnership will also be initiating a scholarship program. CDH will provide one $10,000 scholarship per year for a community member who wishes to pursue a nursing degree at UMass. CDH, in collaboration with UMass, will also develop a summer-intern program, which will provide employment opportunities for UMass nursing students.

Plans also call for UMass faculty to develop relationships with middle school and high school counselors to develop mentoring programs for future nurses.