Maxine Hinze, PhD, RN, CNL and Maude Rittman, PhD, RN
University of Florida, College of Nursing and NF/SG Veterans Health System
The VA-UF Nursing Center of Excellence (NCE) was developed in response to the Veterans Health Affairs new initiative to increase student enrollment in schools of nursing across the United States. As one of the four funded proposals in the US, this particular partnership is aimed at improving the quality of nursing education, quality of the nursing care environment and ultimately quality of care for our veterans. This is to be accomplished through a multi-faceted approach as conceptualized in the Nursing Center of Excellence model.
The initial step in the partnership is the development of model nursing units that have "embedded faculty liaisons" - full-time nursing faculty members that are immersed in the nursing units as role models for excellence in education, service, scholarship and practice. The key to quality clinical experiences for students are the dedicated faculty members that negotiate the academic and practical aspects of nursing care for students and for nursing staff. The faculty liaisons are contributors to the model units in terms of developing relevant evidence-based practice initiatives that can be translated to improved care for the unit clients. Faculty liaisons have joint appointments and will be "immersed" in the scholarship and academics of the College of Nursing. Courses to prepare for the academic teaching role and/or teaching certificates will be offered to all newly employed faculty. The additional faculty supported through the initiative and the development of model units will allow more students to be enrolled.
Another key aspect of the Nursing Center of Excellence is the Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) "Unit" that has a facilitator/coordinator for EBP throughout the organization. The EBP coordinator works with the faculty liaisons on the model unit EBP projects, organization wide projects and educational initiatives critical to the implementation of evidence-based practice at the bedside. These programs include the skin and wound healing and the perioperative and ICU initiatives. The "VA Educational Unit" of the NCE involves an expanded student nurse internship and BSN advanced residency program capitalizing upon the unit based faculty liaisons and augmented experiences aimed at transitioning new graduate nurses into the realities of the workforce environment. The "Research Unit" of the NCE will direct the development of research projects, research training, the collection of data, and the dissemination of information. Improving the workforce environment is a major component of the "Magnet Program Unit" as this encompasses the shared-governance, staff participation and steering committee activities essential to satisfaction in the nursing workforce environment and the magnet hospital endeavor. These activities facilitate the communication process and are the underpinnings of the Nursing Center of Excellence.
Quality is a function of structure (model units, faculty, BSN interns and residents), process (evidence-based practice, research and magnet activities) and outcomes. The outcomes associated with this partnership will be measured in terms of the number of additional students with experiences at the service agency; patient, staff and student nurse satisfaction levels; the number of student internships; new nurse recruitment and retention levels; and nurse-sensitive quality indicator data. Other data may be collected as determined by the Veterans Health Affairs.