A Spotlight on Practicums

Find out more about the Practicum components of our online MSN program from a student’s perspective.

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Jan Merlano: Hello everyone and welcome to our webinar this afternoon. Today we are going to be spotlighting the practicums from a student’s perspective. My name is Jan Merlano; I am an enrollment advisor on the MSN CNL Program, along with LaTonya Boyce, who is also an enrollment advisor. And I’m sure that most of you have spoken to LaTonya or myself, or even maybe both of us at one time.

I would like to start by going over some webinar tools, time permitting today we will have a Question & Answer session. Please use the Question & Answer box on the left of the slides to type in your questions. If you need technical help click the question mark for sound or display issues.

The University of San Francisco was established in 1855 and is based on Jesuit values of social justice, leadership in service, diversity and ethical responsibility. Our curriculum is well designed and learning goal oriented and we have three enrollment periods per year. We will have a January, which is our spring. We have a May start date, which is our summer semester. And we will have a fall semester that will start in August.

Our course work is 100% online and you can perform your practicums in a setting close to your home. And there are no specific login times or lectures. This program is designed for Associates degree and Bachelor of Science Degree, Nurses. You can complete the program in as few as two years. And we are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

I would like to give a brief overview of the CNL certification. You will be eligible to receive CNL certification prior to graduation. And one of the few MSN programs that is approved by the American Association of Colleges and Schools, to provide students with a specific leadership competencies. These competencies are qualities that executives will look for in the hiring and promoting of staff nurses. Students who complete the program distinguish themselves as leaders of evidence based care improvement.

Today, we are very fortunate to have our online program director, Dr. Elena Capella, and I would like to introduce her at this time. Welcome, Dr. Capella would you say a few words please?

Dr. Elena Capella: Hello there, I’d just like to welcome you all to this web conference. I’m just delighted to be discussing our program with you. We have been working with the AACN, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and Nurse Executives for Twelve plus years, to develop a program that really meets the needs of the health care workforce. And we are finding the nurse leaders and executives and people who hire for positions really look forward to hiring our nurses because they are so well trained. And one of the ways that they are so welled trained is through the practicums. So we will be talking about that today. And how the practicums can actually lead to new career opportunities for our students. But just very delighted to be here talking with you today. Thank you.

Jan Merlano: Thank you Dr. Capella. Now I would to introduce our special guest today. And we are very privileged to have an online MSN student with us Christi Robbins. Hi, Christi.

Christi Robbins: Hi, Good Afternoon. How are you all?

Jan Merlano: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

Christi Robbins: Of course I can. My name is Christi Robbins, I am an adult learner. I should preface that right up front. I went into nursing at Forty-Three years old, received an AA during that time. It was a little difficult environment. So what I decided to do is I decided to continue on with my Master’s Degree. I chose the University of San Francisco. My background, since becoming a nurse, I started as volunteer in a local hospital by me. Progressed to Telemetry Tech and a CNA and eventually this program enveloped into something wonderful. So I began a new grad program and so on and so forth. I’ll share a little bit more about my story, but it’s pretty amazing.

Jan Merlano: Thank you Christi. We have students that are always asking us about details about the practicums and since they are an important part of our program, can you tell us a little bit about what they involve?

Christi Robbins: Absolutely, First since this is an online program and when you first get set-up you get an idea of what organizations will accept students. If your organization doesn’t accept students, I had the opportunity to basically connect University of San Francisco with my organization; Elena was extremely beneficial in that.

It was a process; it didn’t take too long it was very easy transition. So, my employer actually became the site of my practicum. At least up until now, that looks like that will be changing. But there is a practicum placement team. The practicums are just wonderful. They put you front and center, you’re organizing you’re meeting with your preceptor. What this program does, it just teaches you a different way of thinking. And so when you’re working with your practicum preceptor, you’re actually taking the information you’re learning in class and then applying it the next day, it’s really an amazing program.

Jan Merlano: Ok, Thank you. Christi, How many different practicums have you done so far?

Christi Robbins: I’ve done, community health, the role is Educator, loved that. Manager in TL that was another practicum. And now I’m in my outcome practicum. You know each one has been a step to the next one. I will go into a little more details about the practicums but it really does grow into something. The opportunities that I’ve had within this organization have been astounding to me.

Jan Merlano: Yes, we would like to know exactly how those practicums are kind of organized and how you go from to the next. And then what kind of projects have you had to do in those practicums?

Christi Robbins: Of course. For the first one, Community Healthy, I ended up working in a care transitions, which sit me right in front with the leaders, to help safely transition people, discharging from the hospital to the home environment. Which is key to the CNL role, because we are integrators of care, we are lateral integration. So we were able to close these gaps, it was really beneficial with that.

The Role is Educator, was a different type precepting. I worked with a different person and ended up working on our throughput measures with the Emergency Department. Working on discharge, like a discharge project, because each one you’re going to have a project that you’re going to build upon.

From my work there, lead me through a system- wide FMEA, which is another type of practicum. I was actually invited by our chief nursing officer to engage in with the leadership team because of the work that I’ve done in the practicum. So it’s really been an amazing opportunity.

Jan Merlano: Ok, Thank you. Now we have many RNs that are coming into our program that would have done clinicals in the past, can you tell us a little bit about the difference between a clinical and the practicums and some of the key areas where it really highlights those differences?

Christi Robbins: Well the clinicals that are different from my perspective are really on a leadership level. Not so much just face to face with a patient, you’re dealing with populations, whether it be the nursing population, or whether it be a certain population. And it’s really in a leadership capacity. You’re working with team building, and you’re working with a different level of interaction with leadership.

Jan Merlano: We do have a lot of students with us today, and they are very curious, do you have advice for them as new students coming is when they start their practicums and different things that you would or could suggest to them that would make it easier or a more seamless process in the course of taking their practicums?

Christi Robbins: I would say the University of San Francisco makes it a seamless process in and of itself. As far as the practicums go, you’re working with your individual leadership whether it is a leadership team or your preceptor. That portion of it really depends on what it is you’re working with. My practicums were sort of unknown to me, and it was a little exciting, a little nerve wracking. But you know I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Our preceptors are already in leadership, so they take on the students and they help them learn how to be leaders, but with the underlying understanding of how to transform their practice as well.

This program, for whatever reason, it really teaches you to think differently. And that’s what stands me out in our organization. Because I think differently, because of how we’re taught in this program.

Jan Merlano: Dr. Capella, do you have anything to add from a faculty perspective on the practicums?

Dr. Elena Capella: I think Christi has described it very well, in that it’s ideal for students to do their practicums in the place of employment. And the reason why, is because you’re doing these projects, so you’re working on projects, adding value. People are recognizing the work that you’re doing. So we find that students have a lot of promotion opportunities when they do their practicum projects within a health care facility that they work at. So that’s the ideal.

The other thing that I would say, again going along with what Christi said, is to make relationships with people at your work place. Kind of get a sense of, first of all where you would like to see yourself, maybe in five years. And then what people you need to know within your organization, and have relationships with who would be good preceptors. So then the school can approach them, and ask them if they would be willing to be your preceptor, and also make the final arrangements. Having a sense of where you want to go and the types of people who kind of guide you in a preceptor relationship, would be really helpful.

Jan Merlano: Thank you Dr. Capella. Christi do you have anything more to add on the practicums for us today?

Christi Robbins: I do, it really has been an experience I could not have bought, for any amount of money. It’s just not something that I would ever have dreamed where I’d be in an organization. It’s just an amazing opportunity that I would have never imagined, and it’s just morphed into something else. And you’re just absolutely right, I had my last preceptor, who is now working with me, she said, “you know you’re doing the work of someone who’s been in leadership for well over ten years, and you’re doing even more work than that”. I’ve had the opportunity to work in an FMEA, that’s a Failure Modes and Effects Analysis and what that is, on our discharge paperwork. What we noticed from my work before, that there is a problem with this and we want to digest this and figure out where that problem is. I was able to bring in tools, that they organization weren’t using. And these are all evidence based tools we are taught, not only how to go about the process but make this process improvement evidence based process. We are not only doing that we are adding to the body of this wonderful knowledge of nursing. I really could not have bought this experience.

Dr. Elena Capella: And I really feel like, Christi is hitting on a high point in that there’s a certain kind of preparation that’s done with the students. We prepare the students with concepts, and these are concepts that are actually used in healthcare organizations. They are not abstract theoretical concepts, they are really the kinds of frame works and protocols and things that are used in organizations. We prepare the students with that, so that they are ready when they are discussing with the preceptor possible projects. They have the tools to bring in; they know what are the recommendations of the Institute of Healthcare Improvement. And they can bring those with a great deal of confidence. Because they’ve learned that and they are ready for this opportunity that shows up during their practicum.

The other thing I suggest to students, we do a lot of work on projects and we also have students do kind of models. They do a poster at the end their course work. I suggest to students that that poster, which is an abstract visual representation of their project that they include those with, resumes and shows them to their supervisors. Because it shows that the students have been affective in implementing a project. It isn’t like they are a Master’s trained student who just knows theory. This is a Master’s student who also knows theory but who also can put it into practice. And we do that through the practicum.

Christi Robbins: I would also add, and if I can be so bold as to add, know your environment. Know what your strategic goals of the organization are so that you can pick those valuable projects that will get noticed. And I think that’s what’s important that worked on the first one, Role of Educator it was basically improvement of up-discharges, upgrades, downgrades, transfers and then that, got me noticed by the chief nursing officer, who then offered me an invitation to become a part of this system wide discharge process. It will open a tremendous amount of opportunities and doors. Because you are given these valuable tools.

Jan Merlano: Thank you so much ladies. Christi, we have a question, why did you choose to do your MSN online?

Christi Robbins: I have had on-ground schooling; I’ve also had education background from an online perspective. I’m a busy adult with a life and full time work and it just fits me. I’m very regimented and I’m very focused. Not everybody can do online, but it was very important to me. And you don’t have to pay for parking.

Jan Merlano: And was there a reason that you chose the University of San Francisco?

Christi Robbins: Actually, Interestingly enough, you mentioned LaTonya. LaTonya was actually very beneficial for me to choose this program. She directed me; it was really up in the air. I knew I wanted to continue on my education. I just didn’t know what direction to take. She encouraged me to read the White Paper. I had a lot of questions; I did a lot of research. I decided to read the White Paper, I was absolutely driven that this is the absolute program for me. LaTonya was very beneficial with that. And she answered every single question that I had. I was a little trepidatious as far as the cost goes she helped me kind of understand resources that are out there that are available for me. I think she was a very strong influence of my choice.

Jan Merlano: Very good.

Dr. Elena Capella: And I would just like to add, the White Paper is a document from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing that was done with nurse executives all over the country. And it basically has core competencies of what they want to see in nursing leaders. And so at the University of San Francisco we have built in these competencies. It really means that the faculty has to work really hard to make sure that they curriculum is in line with the White Paper. But once students go through the program it’s assured that they have all of these competencies that nurse executives are looking for when they hire nurses. And also because we include everything in the White Paper are students are allowed FIP for the CNL certification exam and then that can give them an edge in the workplace too. Because some organizations would prefer a candidate who has a CNL certification, which is why the White Paper really is an important document. I do encourage everyone to read it.

Jan Merlano: Christi what are your career goals, once you graduate?

Christi Robbins: You know what I was just recently asked this by one of our leaders in the organization, what are my career goals. Right now, I am flexible, and that’s just another thing that the program teaches us, Adaptability. If I would have had a direction and a target, I would have missed my mark. I have far exceeded any place that I thought that I would ever be. So I am really open to see what comes next. The opportunities, like I said, were a lot more than I had imagined. Don’t want to cut myself short, but I do know that I have a significant contribution to make. And the skills that I’ve learned through this program, it just makes us different people. If any of you have been in a hospital environment or any kind of environment that is status quo or that lives in this silo, we will stand out, because that’s not what we are taught. It just makes you a different person, it makes you a different thinker, and it’s hard to explain. This is a skill that is going to be something that is needed in our future of health care, because health care changes. It is ever changing, and ideally we are there to bridge those gaps.

Jan Merlano: And Christi do you have any final advice for our RNs today who are thinking about expanding their education with an MSN?

Christi Robbins: Absolutely, I not only encourage you to do an MSN but I encourage you to do it with the University of San Francisco. Like I said, I did a lot of research and not only was it the right choice to make, I’m now going on two and a half almost three years and there has never been any hiccup, it’s just been a smooth transition. From class to class the instructors have been phenomenal. The classmates, I mean it’s almost like a different caliber of people. IT’s not like you’re writing twenty-five hundred word papers every single week. You’re actually using the time in a very productive manner, which is what organizations need. So I say, go for it, I say investing in yourself is never a bad idea. And besides our nurse code of ethics, our last provision, “see that we advance our profession”. And I think being a CNL advances us in a direction that really no other can.
Jan Merlano: Ok, Thank you. We do have some questions that are coming in from our students. Dr. Capella, I think that you would be able to answer this question for us. We have one from a student. What qualifications does a preceptor need?

Dr. Elena Capella: Well, what we look for, is first of all, we ask the student about where they are, who they know, what kind of people who are nurses in leadership do they know?

The ideal preceptor would be a nurse with a MSN and a CNL, that would be ideal. But I would say that, there are very few of those types of preceptors. A preceptor can be, it’s usually a nurse with an MSN, but we do have people who are placed with nurses who have a long history of leadership or management, and who do not have their MSNs. We have some students working with physicians, or with directors of health care agencies, who may not be RNs. It just kind of depends on the situation and the potential preceptor’s background. But we do try and be flexible, and we are always thinking about the student’s potential opportunities. Like, what would be the best kind of placement for the student considering where the student wants to go. I always consider the placements as the place where the students really make a calling card. Because they are really defining what they are capable of and the value that they can add. So we generally try to get to know the students and what their situation is what options are open to them as far as preceptors. Then we look for the best possible placement for the student.

Jan Merlano: Thank you Dr. Capella. We have another question coming in, and I’d like to remind everyone to please use the question and answer box to the left to write in your questions, we do appreciate it.

Dr. Capella this would probably be a good one for you as well. We have the question is it absolutely necessary that we do our practicum at our work place? This student is looking to move out of the hospital and to try to seek employment elsewhere after they are finished with school.

Dr. Elena Capella:
It is possible. It’s harder, it’s more difficult and the reason why is, students are much more likely to have a preceptor say yes if they know the student. I would suggest to cultivate relationships. Get to know people in the area where you would like to work. And get to know people who are there, and get a sense of would they be willing to be a preceptor?

I would also say that the precepting that is done for this program it’s not a shadowing experience. When we think of clinical placements or a BSN placement that’s generally where you would shadow a nurse. It’s not like that in the placements for the MSN program. It’s more that your preceptor is your guide. You might meet with your preceptor, maybe five times or maybe more often. But you may not meet with them very often. They would be introducing you to other people to work with and you’re generally doing the projects on your own. So that would be an important thing to introduce into your first conversations with someone that you’re interested in being a preceptor for you. But I would definitely suggest making contacts trying to see if there are people in the organization where you would like to work, who would be willing to be your preceptor.

Jan Merlano: Thank you, Dr. Capella. Christi this question is for you. We have a student that would like to know how many hours a week do you spend or devote to your study?

Christi Robbins: Oh my goodness. Quite a bit. That’s because I read all of the assignments, I do all the work. I’m active as far as the participation goes. I work thirty-six hours a week. I’m a full time day nurse. It depends on the topic, like statistics for example. I spend a little more time on that because it was almost a different language for me. But you learn to work that in. I really feel the program was very manageable. My Grade point average is extremely high and that’s because I’m not only a dedicated learner but also it was manageable within my life. I don’t know if that helps, as far as a per hour or per week it really depends on how many chapters we were reading what was happening at work. I’m also a new chair which is another opportunity that came from this work for the UPC chair at the moment, and we are just getting that part off the ground so there’s a lot more work to do on the work side. It really depends on the project that you choose. Some of these other projects that I’ve been working on; I spent more than the sixty hours. That’s because I’ve been invested. I don’t know if that helps answer the question.

Jan Merlano: Thank you, Christi. We have a question I think, Christi this would be for you as well, they want to know do they need to be to campus with this program or have you done everything online, or have you gone to the campus to do any research, that kind of thing?

Christi Robbins: The research, the University of San Francisco has a fabulous library. Obviously this is one hundred percent online and our practicums are specific to the location that your practicums are located at so those are things that you may spend six hours here or I could spend ten hours doing a survey face to face. So it really depends on what your project really is, how much time you’re going to be spending, but it is very flexible. Like Elena said it is not a shadow process. You work with your preceptor, you choose what’s important for the organization what’s interesting to you to learn and then you start this project. And this project will snowball into something. But they teach you to manage it and to stay on track. I don’t know if that answers the question but it depends on the project that you choose. Is it going to be a lot of research you’re going to be doing? Do you have to do face to face? Its very research grounded. It is all evidence based and everything that you’re going to be doing requires that it be grounded in evidence based. It’s hard to say; like I said the last time I spent a lot of time in meetings. My last practicum because I was involved in the FMEA and that required me to be in meetings on campus, so it’s very flexible and each practicum is going to be different from the time before and you’re never going to get bored.

Dr. Elena Capella: And I would like to say that our courses are designed so that students can do the work in their own local. And as far as doing all the research going through the library databases and all our students have access to an electronic database. They can just do all their research for projects electronically. We also have a process at the University of San Francisco where if there is a difficult to get article and it’s just crucial to one of the student’s projects then the student can ask the library to find the article for the student. And those will come via PDF to your email and the librarians will find it for you and the librarians will even periodically mail books at the student’s request, and the students just send them back to the library. So we have all sorts of help so that students basically have access to what our students have who actually live close to a campus.

Jan Merlano: Thank you.

Christi Robbins: But more convenient

Dr. Elena Capella: It actually is more convenient because the library has a process where they will send our students texts from the library. But if you’re a student who is taking courses in San Francisco you are required to go to the library. So you actually have better access than students who take courses on the campus.

Jan Merlano: We do have another question and one or both of you may want to answer this. They want to know, do you have to stay in the same department with in your hospital or can you move around to different units for various projects?

Christi Robbins: I’ve been in different units, different departments all together each time. They don’t want you to be in the same departments. And ideally, I’m at the very last end of mine, I have had a huge exposure to different departments and how they work. And that helps with the overall understanding with the organization. And this last semester it’s my final semester, which of course is my internship or my overall role synthesis and what my organization has me doing is taking, instead of my practicum at my organization where I’ve always had them at, I’m going to be going elsewhere. Elena is helping with placement there is a list of organization around my area that I can choose from, that there is one in particular that I would like to work with; it’s only ten minutes away from my home.

And the idea is that you go out and expand your knowledge in other facilities to see what they are doing and bring it back to the organization and to help them grow and development. And so that’s the idea behind it, could that be scary you just don’t know where you’re going to land. I look at it more as an opportunity. It’s a huge opportunity to see how it’s done somewhere else. We are creatures of habit we don’t like change. The beauty about this program is for you to learn how to embrace change. That is going to be your foundation is to be able to except change.

Dr. Elena Capella: And I would also say that some of the students who do stay in one specific department are still working with a variety of disciplines. Most of our projects involve the whole health care team, so they will be working with physicians, physical therapists, information technology, data analysts, and nurse practitioners. The whole role of the CNL is to integrate care across the disciplines.

Christi Robbins: And I think that’s what makes it so valuable.

Jan Merlano: We have another question, how many preceptors will a student typically have over the course of the MSN degree program.

Dr. Elena Capella: I would say our BSN to MSN students, most of them might have one that they work with throughout the whole program. And they would be working with others. The preceptor would introduce them to others and they would go off and do some work with the other person. And then it’s always the preceptor that they work with.

For our associate degree students they might have two at the least because the community health is just a slightly bit different then the place where they might be working and doing most of their precepting. But then many of our students will have three and four preceptors, depending on their situation, depending on their interests and depending on where they see opportunity.

Christi Robbins: I’ve had three so far. But like Elena said it’s like you have the whole leadership team as your preceptor. If that makes any sense. Because many times when you’re in this position you’re dealing with big process in your improvement projects much bigger than just one group. It’s a collaboration and I think that’s where health care is going. It’s a collaborative effect. You’re almost working with the entire leadership team. And that’s how I ended up embedding myself into the organization.

Jan Merlano: We have a question about how long is the program. Typically if you stay on curriculum it is a two year program. Dr. Capella do you see students going over that two year timeline?

Dr. Elena Capella:
Yes, some of our students decide to slow down. They will actually not take all of the courses on the curriculum pattern. It just depends on their situation and sometimes students will take a LOA for a semester if their moving or getting married or something. It’s pretty flexible. But the curriculum patter is set-up so that students have six semesters which is two years.

Jan Merlano:
Ok. Thank you. Dr. Capella we have had some questions of people wanting to know more about the White Paper and where they can read it. Is there a link that you can send to us that we can send to students?

Dr. Elena Capella: Yes I can provide you with a link Jan.

Jan Merlano:
Does anyone have any further questions? Christi would you like to give some final thoughts about our program or anything that you would like to share?

Christi Robbins:
I think the thing that I want to share and express and say. Is that this has been by far the best decision of my life. You know I’m not a sales person; I’m an adult learner who had a career change at 43 years old. You take on all of your experience and what this program does is it teaches you to think differently. And I haven’t been in health care and I haven’t had a lot of exposure to health care. And starting out as a volunteer and then as a Tele-tech I was in the program as not quite an RN just yet, so there are some of those students that are out there. I ended up being chosen as a very competitive new grad program, of thousands of applicants I was one chosen because I was in this program. And suddenly opportunity after opportunity presented.

I wouldn’t let fear or concern or the fear of the unknown and not knowing, things work out. Your clinicals, they have wonderful placement. You’re going to be presented with so many opportunities; it might even be hard to choose. So I would say go for it. I couldn’t imagine, I had my nurse friends who had gone into different programs, and I look at their experience and my experience. And I could not have chosen a better program or a better school for my life and really for anybody. Because I am very different in this organization. You’re definitely being taught a skill that is marketable and it is necessary. Organizations need us and it doesn’t matter if it’s a hospital, it could be with the county, it could be with skilled nursing, it could be with home health. It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter your environment it will teach you a way to think differently and to close these gaps and to really innovate and that’s what it has taught me. So I would say go for it.

Jan Merlano: Thank you Christi, and Dr. Capella do you have any final thoughts for our attendees today?

Dr. Elena Capella: Yes, I would just like to acknowledge you interest in expanding your horizons, in looking at your opportunities, seeing where your career will go and I would really enjoy getting to know you, and getting to know what your goals are. and then helping to guide you through the MSN program. I wish you the best.

Jan Merlano: I would like to thank both, Christi Robbins for joining us today and providing us all of that insight into, not only our program but into the practicums. And Dr. Capella I appreciate you joining us today as well. I know that our students are getting a huge benefit out of this discussion this afternoon.

And for all of our attendees out there I do want to remind you that we do have our summer application. Our deadline will be March thirty-first. And we have a class that will start on May twenty-third. You can contact either myself or LaTonya, we will be happy to discuss the University of San Francisco’s online MSN CNL program. We are very excited about our program and we do like to share our information with you.

Thank you all for attending today. We will have this webinar today available in about a week. Please share it with anyone who would be interested in our program. All of you have a great day. Thank you very much.
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