Date of Publication
Carol Buck-Rolland, EdD, APRN & Connie van Eeghen, DrPH
The transition of the degree requirements for nurse practitioners from a master’s degree (MS) to a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree will deliver a workforce of advanced practice nurses with the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the complex health care needs of patients and populations. The Institute of Medicine (2010) has forecasted an impending shortage of nurses by 2020, and one of the major challenges facing educational programs is lack of training sites.
The shortage of quality clinical sites and experiences for students in primary care is a national challenge as well as a local challenge (AACN, 2014). While creating different clinical opportunities is an important element in the DNP program, another challenge faced by faculty is the ability to assess the students’ clinical learning experiences throughout the program. Historically, programs have maintained manual paper processes for clinical time tracking, logs, preceptor evaluations, and clinical instructor evaluations that limit the ability of the faculty to review individual student experiences. This method of tracking is not easily accessible to faculty or clinical preceptors, making it difficult to review progress and evaluate throughout the clinical experiences.
In order for faculty to better assess the quality of the clinical experiences and to improve the process of communication with clinical preceptors, the University of Vermont (UVM) graduate nurse practitioner program implemented a centralized clinical tracking system that students utilize to document their experiences, preceptors utilize to complete evaluations, and faculty use to get a real-time understanding of student’s experiences throughout the semester and the program.
The purpose of this project was to improve faculty insight to DNP students’ clinical experiences. Through a pilot implementation with the first cohort of DNP students in their initial clinical course (GRNS 408), the project was developed to provide the graduate program with tools to streamline the student’s tracking of clinical experiences, improve the preceptor evaluation of the student process, create reports to evaluate the students’ clinical experiences, and facilitate communication among the student, faculty, and clinical preceptors.
The approach used to identify the impact of the intervention on the insights of the clinical faculty and how it relates to the clinical experiences of the DNP learners was a frequent retrospective data review process. Additionally, to control the rate of change of the intervention and ensure that the outcomes were linked to the intervention, we used a rapid cycle improvement process. The outcomes measured following implementation included review of the reports in the program throughout the semester, and the feedback from the users at the end of semester survey.
The pilot phase of the project that changed the logging and evaluation of UVM DNP learners from a manual to an automated process was successful. With limited training for learners, preceptors and faculty, the project was able to provide easy tools for learners to log clinical experiences and for preceptors to evaluate students. With access to the data in real-time, the clinical faculty were able to get a snapshot of the clinical experiences every few weeks, and use that information to create meaningful discussions during clinical seminar time, and objectively evaluate the learner at specific points in time through the semester as well as an objective final faculty evaluation.
Rouleau, Barbara A., "Improving the Management and Monitoring of the Clinical Experiences of Nurse Practitioner Learners" (2016). College of Nursing and Health Sciences Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Project Publications. 2.