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Nurs Inform. 2012; 2012: 074.
Published online 2012 Jun 23.
PMCID: PMC3799165

Using a Private-Public Partnership to Supplement Healthcare Information Technology in Nursing Education

Patricia A. Cholewka, EdD, MPA, MA, RN, NE-BC, Associate Professor1
Nursing Department, New York City College of Technology, CUNY, New York, NY, U.S.A.;
John Harkins, Director2
Application Services;
Stephen Hoelper3
Leader, Mobile Technology Innovation;
John Schrieber4
Program Manager/Innovation;
Ralph Eddy Daniel5 and Jasdip Kaur6
Innovation Analysts, Merck & Co., Inc., Global Human Health Information Technology, Whitehouse Station, NJ, U.S.A.


Various reports by the World Bank and U.S. business technology executives, academics, economists, researchers, and government policymakers have recommended crafting a new educational model for educating America’s future workforce including nurses in their professional research pursuits. According to the National League for Nursing, nursing research is an integral part of the scientific enterprise of improving the nation’s health. A major aim of this new educational focus is the partnering of private business enterprises and public educational institutions to achieve this outcome, i.e., public-private partnerships. Merck & Co., Inc. will partner/collaborate on a student learning pilot project with New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York Department of Nursing Bachelor of Nursing Program students - all practicing New York State Registered Professional Nurses - who are taking either Nursing Informatics or Leadership in the Management of Client Care courses.


A major goal of this public-private partnership (i.e., Student Learning Partnership/Partnership) is to build student/human capital through quality supplementation of Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Program course work. “The international community is paying more attention to mounting evidence that shows a strong relationship that exists between human capital and sustainable socioeconomic development”. And underlying this focus is a new understanding that business-government collaboration can help build local capacity.1

As part of a national effort to increase America’s economic growth and competiveness in an increasingly competitive global economy, President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board conducted outreach to private sector employers, labor leaders, philanthropy organizations, and policy leaders within the Administration to solicit views on workforce development challenges, publicly- financed programs, and more effective public/private partnerships. Employers identified public/private partnerships as one of the most effective ways to improve the skills and credentials of American workers and students.2

A nursing faculty member contacted Merck & Co. Inc. (Merck) in October 2010 after reading an article in a 2010 issue of InformationWeek. This article focused on an interview with the Merck Chief Information Officer-Executive Vice President of Global Services about the foci of the newly formed Technology Innovation for Global Human Health (GHH) organization. This Merck organization’s vision, combined with the White House vision, and the New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York (NYCCT, CUNY) Department of Nursing’s (DON) vision for its BSN students was a perfect impetus to design an education model using a public-private partnership to supplement current course offerings. Merck, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, is advancing the cause of electronic healthcare through the development of a series of mobile applications intended to help people more effectively manage a wide range of medical conditions.3 This Student Learning Partnership also fits well with the National League for Nursing’s identification of the top 10 trends in terms of their impact on nursing education and the role of the nurse in various clinical settings.4


Founded in New York in 1891, Merck, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, discovers, develops, produces, and markets vaccines and medicines to treat various medical conditions. Merck helped bring about the groundbreaking predecessor to all modern antibiotics: penicillin.5 The new Merck GHH organization will include the company’s prescription, vaccines and biologics businesses. This is the Merck organization within which NYCCT, CUNY students will interact (i.e., GHH IT Innovations Services Group).6


This Student Learning Partnership between Merck and NYCCT, CUNY DON would supplement BSN coursework with industry knowledge and training about the real work world graduates will face in the increasingly competitive, technologically advanced, and business oriented healthcare environment. BSN students will engage in research and Healthcare Information Technology (HIT) projects with Merck and learn the business aspects about what is involved in working as a team to design, implement, and manage HIT both at Merck and in national and global healthcare settings. As shown in Table 1, as licensed and practicing New York State Registered Professional Nurses, they will apply their professional clinical knowledge to Merck HIT projects.

Table 1:
Current Focal Areas for Merck Global Services*

These HIT projects might include developing patient teaching and/or patient care applications and identifying them for successful integration and user acceptance prior to deployment, i.e., servers, mobile handheld devices for medication administration, patient-to-nurse communication regarding pain and disease management, patient tele-tracking, improved bar code scanners, etc. Students will use the loan of iPads that are provided by a CUNY grant to communicate with Merck for program-related activities. The project(s) with which each student will be engaged, will correspond to the course work of each BSN nursing course they take. When this program is fully established, these projects will be conducted during each Fall and Spring academic semesters. These projects will be conducted at Merck Corporate Headquarters or wirelessly through the faculty/student’s computer or iPad, along a designated secure and confidential Merck Internet site. Students will then partake in their own assignments, monitored by their Merck mentors, throughout the semester and write a paper describing their experience with recommendations as how this will enable them to continue to develop their careers. It is hoped that they will network during their work at Merck and gain some additional, and varied, job/career opportunities within the healthcare industry. This Student Learning Partnership will benefit both Merck and NYCCT, CUNY for:

  • Developing strategic workforce/employment.
  • Increasing U.S. global healthcare competitiveness.
  • Developing HIT and business talent to improve healthcare productivity.
  • Building a strong private-public partnership beneficial to Merck, NYCCT, and CUNY.
  • Increasing student motivation.
  • Providing good public relations for Merck with students, healthcare professionals, government, and the public.
  • Enhancing student employability upon graduation.
  • Increasing organizational cultural intelligence of students.
  • Providing students with a ‘reality’ experience not available in an academic setting.


This pilot of this nursing HIT education model is to be implemented in Fall 2011. Student outcome measures were mutually developed by both NYCCT, CUNY DON faculty and Merck. Continuance of this Student Learning Partnership will be based on Merck, NYCCT DON faculty, and student satisfaction with learning opportunities and successful integration into both NYCCT DON and Merck operations. Students partaking in this Partnership will demonstrate an increase in nursing HIT knowledge and critical thinking after their learning experience. Both a pre- and post-test by a 10-question survey (with an open-ended comment section) will be administered to all students partaking in this partnership as well as to a population of students not participating in this Partnership. This survey will compare and contrast the level of knowledge of the expanded role of the nurse in the national and global healthcare markets held by each group. Students in this partnership will indicate a more in-depth knowledge of the expanded role of the nurse in the national and global healthcare markets than their counterparts who have not participated in this partnership. Merck, NYCCT, CUNY – and especially the nursing students - are hopeful and enthusiastic about applying this educational model that is geared to present different and exciting patient care opportunities within the dynamic healthcare industry.


1. Cholewka PA. Global health capital and sustainable socioeconomic development. In: Cholewka PA, Motlagh MM, editors. Health capital and sustainable socioeconomic development. Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis Group; 2008. p. 218.
2. The White House Office of the Press Secretary 2010. Oct 11, Available from: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/10/04/president-obama-announce-launch-skills-america-s-future.
3. Conry-Murray A. Your Health? Merck Has An App For That. Merck Has An App For That. 2010. Sep 13, Available from: http://www.informationweek.com/news/mobility/business/227300382?queryText=YourHealth?
4. NLN Publications 2011. Jun 13, Available from: http://www.nln.org/nlnjournal/infotrends.htm#7).
5. Merck/Schering-Plough Merger [homepage on the Internet] 2011. Jun 11, Available from: http://www.merck.com/about/merck-schering-plough-merger/home.html).
6. Merck CEO Announces Structure and Global Leadership Team for New Merck. 2011. May 24, Available from: The Free Library by Farlex web site at: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Merck+CEO+Announces+Structure+and+Global+Leadership+Team+for+New+Merck-a0206932108).

Articles from NI 2012: Proceedings of the 11th International Congress on Nursing Informatics are provided here courtesy of American Medical Informatics Association
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