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VA Boston Healthcare System


A Partnership in Care and Education

Nurses and staff of 2 South gather for a group photo

Nurses and staff of VA Boston's 2 South gather for a group photo.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The spirit of cooperation was abundantly evident as VA Boston Healthcare System (VA BHS) along with Simmons College School of Nursing dedicated 2 medical wards at the West Roxbury campus as Dedicated Education Units (DEU’s).

Dedicated Education Units (DEUs) is a clinical education model that is currently being implemented across the country in both the VA and the private sector.  Schools of nursing and health care organizations have been partnering and developing new models of clinical education which would have the dual purpose of increasing the number of clinical education sites for nursing students, as well as providing experienced staff nurses with opportunities to share their considerable expertise and experience with a new generation of nurses.  During the spring of 2011, VA BHS partnered with Simmons College School of Nursing and the first DEU was piloted on ward A1 at the West Roxbury campus. It was a great success as reported by the students, the nursing staff, and the Simmons college faculty, so much so that a second DEU has been initiated on ward 2South for spring 2012.

“Having the opportunity to sponsor a Dedicated Education Unit in conjunction with Simmons has been a wonderful experience both for our staff and the Simmons students,” said Cecilia McVey, Associate Director of Nursing/Patient Care Services for VA Boston Healthcare System.  “The staff is able to experience the role of faculty while remaining in their staff nurse role and the students have the benefit of learning from a practicing RN. I believe that DEU’s will be the new way for educating students in the future and I’m proud to be a partner with Simmons in this venture.”

One of the primary features of a DEU model is that staff nurses at health care facilities act as clinical instructors and teach the students while they are on the inpatient care floors.  Faculty from Simmons College nursing education program support and mentor the staff nurses in their role as clinical instructors, thus developing a new supply of quality instructors for the next generation of nurses.  This model also reinforces the belief that the clinical nurse’s educational role is vital to the development of student’s professional skills and knowledge.

Seven VA BHS nurses have served as instructors for this program, Monique Balthazar, Nancy Gunshanan, Diane Maloof, Louise Graham, Ossy Nwokocha, Marcia Nguyen, and Martha Reynolds.  All agree the experience of participating in this program has been overwhelmingly positive for everyone.

“The two dedicated education units at the West Roxbury campus are examples of best practice in academic-service partnerships in nursing,” said Dr. Judy A. Beal, Dean and Professor School of Nursing and Health Sciences for Simmons College. “Based on mutual goals and a foundation of mutual trust and respect, nursing leaders from Simmons and the VA developed this extremely successful and innovative model for educating the nurse of the future. We are honored and privileged to participate with the VA in changing the future of nursing education.”

This model of education has benefits to both VA staff and the Simmons College instructors.  It gives staff at both the hospital and the university setting an opportunity to share professional expertise and skills, and promotes career growth to staff nurses through a new role as a clinical instructor.  Nurses at VA are also able to take advantage of ongoing professional nursing development by receiving Continuing Education Units through programs offered by Simmons College.

VA Boston Healthcare System and Simmons College School of Nursing have a history of mutual respect, support and trust, with open communication and commitment for providing quality patient care to our Veterans and an optimal educational experience for students.  The DEU model provides a venue for both of these goals.  We look forward to its continued success.


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