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Education: Revamped undergraduate curricula opens the door to more collaborative learning opportunities

Posted: Oct. 4, 2016

Nursing students at the UT Austin School of Nursing
Simulation and Skills Center.

No one questions whether providing quality patient care depends on a well-educated nursing workforce. Research has shown that lower mortality rates, fewer medication errors, and positive outcomes are all linked to nurses prepared at the baccalaureate and graduate degree levels. The School of Nursing is committed to exploring new and innovative ways of preparing a more highly qualified nursing workforce by ensuring that curricula and education processes develop not only clinical competency, but also a more collaborative care delivery.

The School of Nursing recently updated its undergraduate admissions process in fall 2014 so that students could be admitted directly as freshmen into the four-year bachelor of science in nursing program.

The newly revised curriculum enables students to take nursing courses a semester earlier than in the previous degree plan, which gives them hands-on clinical skills practice sooner than their junior year.

Now students spend more time together, and faculty have more time to work with each cohort as they develop the critical knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to be nurses. From a curriculum perspective, allowing students to start nursing courses a semester earlier, expanding from four to five upper division nursing semesters, is an advantage since nursing requires such intense, high-stakes learning.

Gayle Timmerman, PhD, RN, CNS, FAAN,
associate dean for academic affairs

“This change allows students to be even better prepared to start their professional nursing careers and provides them with a little more time to develop a deeper under- standing of the complexities involved in caring for people,” said Gayle Timmerman, PhD, RN, CNS, FAAN, associate dean for academic affairs. “The first cohort from this class of freshman admits will graduate spring 2018. We are eagerly looking for- ward to seeing how this will ultimately impact our BSN graduates.”

But that is only the beginning. To transform how nursing education is delivered, the School of Nursing, already a driving force behind the implementation of interprofessional education on the UT Austin campus, is partnering with the College of Pharmacy, School of Social Work and the new Dell Medical School to ensure that students are prepared to deliver the best possible health care in teams that understand how to appreciate and to communicate and collaborate with the other disciplines they will work alongside in clinical settings.

For the first time this fall approximately 255 students from nursing, medicine, pharmacy and social work will be taught interprofessional collaborative competencies through a variety of interactive, team-building activities.

“We’re excited about this initial group of students learning from each other about their professions and how to work as part of an interprofessional team. This course represents the leading edge of interprofessional education, using innovative educational methods,” Dr. Timmerman said. “This is another opportunity for our students to participate in experiences that will develop the leadership and communication skills needed to produce the best nursing graduates in the country.


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