Nursing leadership is a multifaceted concept. Because of its continued growth and expansion, no longer can nurse educators rely soley on traditional hospital-related clinical activities to prepare tomorrow's nursing leaders. A variety of educational opportunities is vital to assure acquisition of leadership concepts, and to facilitate the development of the knowledge and skills necessary for beginning leadership positions. Tb meet this challenge, nurse educators must continue to be creative in designing theory application experiences for nursing leadership students.
This article describes the use of a university Student Health Center as a clinical resource facility, to provide leadership related educational opportunities for senior level baccalaureate nursing students. Within this learning environment, which focuses on the concepts of health promotion and maintenance, students are provided the opportunity to apply their knowlege of nursing leadership concepts to further develop competencies in leadership skills and management techniques.
Structure of the Experience
Students enrolled in the course, Practicum in Nursing Leadership, are randomly assigned to a three-hour individual learning experience at the Student Health Center. This experience provides them the opportunity to work directly with the Nursing Health Educator who assists them to meet their learning needs and to explore special interest areas.
The Student Health Center provides ambulatory and inpatient health care to 14,000 students. An average of 350 students are seen daily at outpatient clinics, with last year's total reaching 52,000 patient visits. The Center's staff consists of 15 registered nurses, three licensed practical nurses, three nursing assistants, four nurse practitioners, a nursing health educator, physicians, laboratory technologists, a pharmacist, and an administrative staff. This variety of health care professionals establishes an excellent learning environment for nursing leadership students, for the practicum course emphasizes the coordination and collaboration aspects of planning strategies for health promotion, maintenance and/or restoration.
One of the goals of the Student Health Center is to increase the Center's visibility on the university campus. The staff has sought to meet this goal through both the development of an ongoing wellness program, and the establishment of a liaison relationship with academic units. Therefore, the use of the Center for clinical learning experiences has mutual benefits for both the students and the Center. The students gain from this supportive learning environment while the Center obtains direct input regarding the wellness program activities through student selected special projects.
Overview of the Experience
The focus of the practicum is on the role of the nurse leader. Special emphasis is on the communication, motivation, leadership, and conflict resolution techniques/ strategies used to direct others. Therefore, the students are encouraged to observe and interact with the Nursing Health Educator to explore these aspects of her leadership role.
The experience includes a tour of the facility and an overview of the services and programs available at the Student Health Center. The organizational structure, philosophy, and goals of the Center are discussed. Additionally, the students are given the opportunity to gain specific information based on their individual learning objectives formulated prior to the experience.
STUDENT OPINION OF STUDENT HEALTH CENTER EXPERIENCE (? = 23)
The services and programs offered by the Student Health Center provide a variety of nursing leadership related learning opportunities. The majority of the students assigned to the Center teach either a contraceptive or smoking cessation class. Those students not directly involved in developing and implementing a teaching plan, have the opportunity to observe a teaching session conducted by the Nursing Health Educator. Other selected activities students have been involved in include: assisting with a preschool orientation tour of the Center; disseminating health related literature (e.g., American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout materials); collecting research data regarding knowledge of risk factors associated with vaginal/urinary tract infections; assisting with writing a weekly "Focus on Health" article for the university newspaper; and particpating in informal, one-to-one teaching sessions for college students seeking healthrelated information.
Evaluation of the Experience
The leadership students have been overwhelmingly positive in their evaluations of their clinical experiences at the Student Health Center. Several students commented that at the Center they had been introduced to many new learning experiences and had been able to observe realworld nursing leadership in action, through the solving of day-to-day problems. Also, they commented that as a result of this experience, they had gained insight into outpatient-centered management.
Written feedback received from the students supported their positive comments. The students identified from a list those items which best described their leadership experience at the Student Health Center. The items identified, according to frequency, are listed in the Figure.
The students' responses suggest that the learning experiences at the Student Health Center contribute to and reinforce their knowledge of leadership and management concepts. In addition, they indicate an increased understanding of expanded nursing roles as well as the differences found in an outpatient setting. The students were less likely to incorporate leadership concepts and principles on a personal level due to their short experience at the Student Health Center.
Based on student comments and written evaluations, plans are underway to broaden this experience and to allow for more interaction time with other nursing leaders in the Student Health Center. The structuring of this theory application experience for nursing leadership students has proven to be a unique and valuable clinical component of the nursing leadership course.
STUDENT OPINION OF STUDENT HEALTH CENTER EXPERIENCE (? = 23)