The University of Texas at Arlington to lead study defining nursing competency standards

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing and Health Innovation has been awarded a $1.8 million grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to lead a multi-institution study of clinical experience requirements for nursing school graduates.

The research will involve more than 1,700 students over 30 months. In the end, the results will lead to a better understanding of the amount and nature of clinical experiences, or “clinical hours,” needed for competency upon graduation. Partners in the program include Tarleton State University, El Centro College, Brookhaven College, the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council Foundation and six North Texas health care systems.

Currently, there is no state requirement addressing clinical experience for nursing students. Individual schools’ standards vary from less than 500 to more than 1,100 hours, said Beth Mancini, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the College of Nursing and a lead investigator on the new grant.

“The College of Nursing at UT Arlington is particularly qualified to lead this new research project because of our history of successful student outcomes, our emphasis on health research and our groundbreaking work in simulation technology,” said Anne Bavier, UT Arlington College of Nursing and Health Innovation Dean. “The results of this study will influence education and health care in Texas far into the future.”

The new clinical model is expected to maximize the use of simulated clinical experiences, such as those UT Arlington students experience in the campus’ 13,000-square-feet Smart Hospital, in addition to real-world experiences. The Smart Hospital contains functional hospital rooms equipped with high-tech patient simulators and medical equipment.

“There has never been a comprehensive study such as this focused on the clinical experiences students need to develop clinical competencies jointly agreed upon by academics and employers,” said Mancini. “With this information, it will be possible to identify an optimal range of clinical hours resulting in more efficient and effective nursing education.”

Daisha Cipher, a clinical associate professor at UT Arlington, is another principal investigator on the new research project. Judy LeFlore, associate dean for simulation and technology, will be the project manager on the study.

“The Coordinating Board is pleased to award this nursing grant to UT Arlington based on the institution’s overall goal to establish a model of clinical instruction that can be replicated or adapted by the majority of nursing programs in Texas,” said THECB Deputy Commissioner and Chief Academic Officer David Gardner. “Improving the quality of nursing education is an important component of Texas’ higher education strategic plan, Closing the Gaps by 2015 .”

Health systems involved in the grant program include: HCA North Texas Division; Baylor Scott & White Health; JPS Health Network; Kindred Healthcare; Methodist Health System; and Texas Health Resources.

Sally Williams, DFWHC Foundation Workforce Center Director, said the Foundation is pleased to work with UT Arlington and the other North Texas nursing schools and hospitals to address the clinical experiences critical to nursing education.

“Hospital employers are interested in making the clinical portion of nursing education more efficient and effective when preparing nursing graduates to be ‘practice ready.’ This collaboration will make a significant impact on the preparation of future graduates entering the North Texas healthcare workforce,” she said.

The project will begin by identifying specific skills, behaviors and knowledge, or “competencies,” students should be taught in several medical areas, such as pediatrics and adult care. Then, data will be collected on study and control groups of nursing students as they move through their clinical experiences, including an initial simulation experience.

In all, the researchers expect to gather more than one million data points before making recommendations based on their findings.

The University of Texas at Arlington has one of the nation’s largest nursing colleges with more than 12,000 students worldwide. To learn more, visit www.uta.edu/nursing/ .

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution and the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as the seventh fastest-growing public research university in 2013. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.

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