In nursing, all good things are shared

Susan Grant


Table of Contents


Emory Nursing Magazine


Over the past few months, I have had the honor of serving as the interim dean of the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, in addition to my role as the chief nursing officer for Emory Healthcare. I continue to learn about this wonderful school. Marla Salmon advanced the school in so many ways, and my responsibility is to keep the momentum going.  

Since my arrival at Emory two years ago, Emory Healthcare has partnered with the school to bridge the gap from academe to practice. Our Partnership Committee has looked at a number of ways to collaborate, including instituting a dedicated education unit (DEU) within Emory Healthcare. Now I want to give you an update on the DEU as we move forward on it. 

Traditionally, students gained clinical experience with a school instructor working with six students at once in a clinical setting. After students graduated, they would transition into a position by working with a unit-based "preceptor" staff nurse for six to 12 weeks. Typically the student and new graduate experiences were not integrated, and frequently, new graduates experienced "culture shock" as they entered into practice.

In the DEU, faculty work with experienced staff nurses to teach students in their junior and senior practica. First, seasoned staff nurses are trained by clinical faculty in how to teach students—how to evaluate, how to teach at different levels of knowledge, and how to make patient assignments, for example. Then the staff nurses work with only one or two students under the supervision of school faculty.

We think this model will benefit all those involved. By training with one nurse, students can gain clinical experience that is consistent, focused, and more in-depth. We’re also increasing the pipeline for clinical instructors by tapping into the pool of experienced staff nurses. Nursing schools across the country have a shortage of faculty. The increased demand for nursing programs and the fact that a large number of faculty are approaching retirement age have given rise to a constant concern about the availability of clinical instructors.

Ultimately, the DEU experience will narrow the transition for students entering into professional practice at Emory. Our goal is to make their first professional nursing experience the best possible and to retain them, and a key factor in retention of new graduates is the ease in which they transition into practice.

Most important, patients under the care of DEU nurses also benefit. The University of Portland, which pioneered the DEU concept, reported higher patient satisfaction in DEUs than in nondedicated education units. In addition, staff turnover and nursing agency use were lower on the DEUs, lessening the variation in patient care.

Emory Healthcare and the school have decided to use the name "dedicated collaborative unit." Our first steps of the DCU began in the summer with the hiring of Kelly Brewer, a former instructor with the school, into a shared position to support the concept. She’ll work to start two DCUs at Emory Healthcare for the spring semester, and with input from the participating nurses and students, we will grow the concept. Thanks to everyone on the Partnership Committee who has helped with this exciting endeavor.

Susan Grant

Susan Grant
Interim Dean