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Nursing school partnership aims to combat nursing shortage through personal mentorship

At a time when both the demand for nurses and the shortage of nursing faculty are both at an all-time high, an innovative partnership between the University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing and Health Innovation and Medical City Fort Worth is changing the way nursing education is delivered. Utilizing practicing nurses as preceptors, the Dedicated Education Unit (DEU) program is an innovative nursing education model designed to expand the number of nurse educators and develop nursing students into skilled and compassionate caregivers.

The first of its kind within Medical City Healthcare, the DEU allows nursing students to work directly with an assigned lead nurse mentor for hands-on experience while being able to obtain feedback and ask questions in real-time during each patient encounter. Throughout each semester, a trusting relationship is formed between preceptors and students which encourages students to more freely interact with staff. Students on DEU’s gain an increasing level of confidence in their skills and decision-making in comparison with the more traditional model used to place nursing students into clinical learning experiences.

“The DEU learning model has exceeded our expectations,” says Asst. Clinical Professor Gabriela Whitener, DNP, RN, at the University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing and Health Innovation. “It allows hospital preceptors to take responsibility and ownership for the clinical experience and learning environment for the nursing students which in turn makes the program more successful. Medical City Fort Worth has been a terrific partner.”

“I have benefited greatly during my time at Medical City Fort Worth,” says Natalie Esquivel, a University of Texas at Arlington nursing student. “The relationship that I have developed with my lead preceptor has allowed me to develop my skills faster. I am now more confident in my abilities which will allow me to hit the ground running when I get my first nursing job.”

“We are extremely pleased with the DEU program,” says Ulondia Lee, DNP, RN, Chief Nursing Officer at Medical City Fort Worth. “This learning model has not only benefited our students, but also our nurses who have gained new ideas and fresh perspectives for patient care throughout the year.”

Sixteen nursing school students will graduate from the DEU program in May. The DEU model has been so successful that Medical City Healthcare plans to extend the program to Medical City Dallas and Medical City Plano in September.

“The DEU model is the future for nursing education,” says Medical City Healthcare Division Chief Nursing Executive Zach Mueller, DNP, RN. “At Medical City Healthcare, the destination of choice for nurses to practice, we are proud to expand our partnership with the University of Texas at Arlington and other nursing schools to train high caliber nurses.”

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