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Nurs Leadersh (Tor Ont). 2006 Sep;19(3):e1-14.

Feasibility and outcomes of paid undergraduate student nurse positions.

Author information

  • 1University of Victoria School of Nursing, Victoria, BC. lgamroth@uvic.ca

Abstract

An Undergraduate Nurse Employment Demonstration Project (UNDP) was implemented in four Health Service Areas in British Columbia with a concurrent evaluation study. This demonstration project comprised the development and implementation of a new position in the BC healthcare system. The position enabled third- and fourth-year nursing students to be employed at their level of education. The purposes of the evaluation were to explore the feasibility and outcomes of this type of paid undergraduate student nurse employment. The three-year project and evaluation included both implementation and outcome analysis. The implementation evaluation design was descriptive and prospective, involving multiple data sources. The outcome evaluation design was quasi-experimental, with intervention and comparison groups. Learning outcomes for undergraduate nurses were increased confidence, organizational ability, competency and ability to work with a team. Workplace outcomes were increased unit morale, help with workload and improved patient care. New graduates with undergraduate nurse experience reported less time required for orientation and transition than other graduates who did not have this experience, and workplace nurses viewed these new graduates as more job-ready than other new graduates. After 21 months, new graduates with undergraduate nurse experience were less likely to move to other employment than other new graduates. Results from the four Health Service Areas indicated that the paid undergraduate nurse position was feasible and that outcomes benefited students, new graduates and workplaces. The undergraduate nurse position is now being implemented throughout all Health Service Areas in British Columbia.By 2000, concerns in British Columbia about the nursing workforce, workplace and patient safety had escalated to the point where diverse stakeholder groups were prepared to work together in new ways to prepare nursing graduates to be more job-ready, to recruit and retain new graduates and to retain existing nurses. Stakeholder groups were administrators, labour organizations, professional associations, educators and government. One idea to support job readiness and retention focussed on the feasibility of implementing cooperative education for nursing students. The effort was unsuccessful owing to lack of funding, but resulted in a review of the literature on cooperative education and other work-study programs. Cooperative education connects classroom learning with paid work experience for the purpose of enhancing students' education (Fitt and Heverly 1990; Heinemann and De Falco 1992; Ryder 1987). Reported benefits for students were improved job preparation and graduate retention (Ishida et al. 1998), additional staffing and reduction in orientation time (Cusack 1990; Ishida et al. 1998), increased practice judgment (Cusack 1990; Siedenberg 1989) and better workload management (Ross and Marriner 1985). A work-study model reported in the literature offered benefits similar to those of cooperative education, with greater flexibility in design. An example was the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston's collaborative work-study scholarship program with local hospitals (Kee and Ryser 2001). Students in second clinical semesters were employed as unlicensed personnel by hospitals. The students, as unlicensed personnel, worked to the level of their nursing preparation. Reported benefits for students were academic credit, financial assistance, interaction with multidisciplinary teams, opportunity to refine clinical skills, understanding of nurses' roles and guaranteed interview for positions on graduation (Kee and Ryser 2001). Benefits for practice organizations were skilled help, the opportunity to recruit new nurses and increased interaction with a university nursing program. While nurse education stakeholders in British Columbia were exploring options, the concept of undergraduate student nurse employment was initiated by a group of fourth-year students at the University of Victoria who were completing the course "Nurses Influencing Change." The students were concerned about having enough practice experience to meet increasing nursing competency requirements and their survival as new graduates given workplace realities. Debt load also was a concern because extensive student practicum time limited opportunities for paid employment during the nursing education program. Students found that the idea of paid undergraduate nurse positions, based on the student employment model in Alberta, was supported by nurse leaders, many practising nurses and nursing faculty who also were concerned about meeting patient care standards and adequately preparing nursing students. In 2000, the BC Ministry of Health Services funded an Undergraduate Nurse Demonstration Project (UNDP) - one type of paid employment for undergraduate student nurses - in four Health Service Areas linked with four schools of nursing. A concurrent three-year evaluation study examined the feasibility and outcomes of the UNDP (Gamroth et al. 2004). This paper summarizes the findings of the evaluation. Evaluation Research An Undergraduate Nurse Employment Demonstration Project (UNDP) was implemented in four Health Service Areas in British Columbia with a concurrent evaluation study. This demonstration project comprised the development and implementation of a new position in the BC healthcare system. The position enabled third- and fourth-year nursing students to be employed at their level of education. The purposes of the evaluation were to explore the feasibility and outcomes of this type of paid undergraduate student nurse employment. The three-year project and evaluation included both implementation and outcome analysis. The implementation evaluation design was descriptive and prospective, involving multiple data sources. The outcome evaluation design was quasi-experimental, with intervention and comparison groups. Learning outcomes for undergraduate nurses were increased confidence, organizational ability, competency and ability to work with a team. Workplace outcomes were increased unit morale, help with workload and improved patient care. New graduates with undergraduate nurse experience reported less time required for orientation and transition than other graduates who did not have this experience, and workplace nurses viewed these new graduates as more job-ready than other new graduates. After 21 months, new graduates with undergraduate nurse experience were less likely to move to other employment than other new graduates. Results from the four Health Service Areas indicated that the paid undergraduate nurse position was feasible and that outcomes benefited students, new graduates and workplaces. The undergraduate nurse position is now being implemented throughout all Health Service Areas in British Columbia. By 2000, concerns in British Columbia about the nursing workforce, workplace and patient safety had escalated to the point where diverse stakeholder groups were prepared to work together in new ways to prepare nursing graduates to be more job-ready, to recruit and retain new graduates and to retain existing nurses. Stakeholder groups were administrators, labour organizations, professional associations, educators and government. One idea to support job readiness and retention focussed on the feasibility of implementing cooperative education for nursing students. The effort was unsuccessful owing to lack of funding, but resulted in a review of the literature on cooperative education and other work-study programs. Cooperative education connects classroom learning with paid work experience for the purpose of enhancing students' education (Fitt and Heverly 1990; Heinemann and De Falco 1992; Ryder 1987). Reported benefits for students were improved job preparation and graduate retention (Ishida et al. 1998), additional staffing and reduction in orientation time (Cusack 1990; Ishida et al. 1998), increased practice judgment (Cusack 1990; Siedenberg 1989) and better workload management (Ross and Marriner 1985). A work-study model reported in the literature offered benefits similar to those of cooperative education, with greater flexibility in design. An example was the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston's collaborative work-study scholarship program with local hospitals (Kee and Ryser 2001). Students in second clinical semesters were employed as unlicensed personnel by hospitals. The students, as unlicensed personnel, worked to the level of their nursing preparation. Reported benefits for students were academic credit, financial assistance, interaction with multidisciplinary teams, opportunity to refine clinical skills, understanding of nurses' roles and guaranteed interview for positions on graduation (Kee and Ryser 2001). Benefits for practice organizations were skilled help, the opportunity to recruit new nurses and increased interaction with a university nursing program. While nurse education stakeholders in British Columbia were exploring options, the concept of undergraduate student nurse employment was initiated by a group of fourth-year students at the University of Victoria who were completing the course "Nurses Influencing Change." The students were concerned about having enough practice experience to meet increasing nursing competency requirements and their survival as new graduates given workplace realities. Debt load also was a concern because extensive student practicum time limited opportunities for paid employment during the nursing education program. Students found that the idea of paid undergraduate nurse positions, based on the student employment model in Alberta, was supported by nurse leaders, many practising nurses and nursing faculty who also were concerned about meeting patient care standards and adequately preparing nursing students.

PMID:
19830923
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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