By Cheri L. Goldstein, MSOL (NU ’96 &15)
Like other undergraduate programs at Norwich University, the School of Nursing saw an influx of students enter its bachelor degree program this fall. At a time when the nursing and healthcare landscape offers many new opportunities, the nursing program is expected to see continued high demand and growth in its ranks: Within three years, there will likely be close to 50 student nurses in the program.
Because this growth will require additional support for the placement of students into their clinical rotations, Cheri L. Goldstein, MSOL (NU ’96 & ’15) was chosen in August to join the School of Nursing team as the clinical placement coordinator for the undergraduate program.
School of Nursing Director Dr. Paulette Thabault describes this position as “critical for ensuring that we maintain and develop new clinical partners that provide our students with rich learning experiences.” The clinical placement coordinator maintains the database for tracking clinical records and requirements for all students and ensures that prerequisites are met by all students before they enter each facility. Each nursing student must provide documentation that all medical requirements, such as CPR certification, immunizations, background checks, and drug screening, have been fulfilled before the student attends the clinical setting.
In her post, Goldstein tracks these requirements to maintain the appropriate level of clinical clearance by students required for each of our clinical sites. This function ensures that we are meeting our contractual obligations and supports our accreditation.
Another critical objective of the new position is to maintain existing clinical site relationships and establish new clinical partners for additional placements in the community. As the Norwich School of Nursing grows, so must the opportunities for clinical rotations in Vermont. Just within the past eight months, new placements have been initiated at Burlington Health and Rehabilitation Center for the Care of Adults I fall rotation. In the spring, we will place students for the first time at Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans for senior practicum and obstetric rotations, as well as at Copley Hospital in Morrisville for senior practicum.
For the community nursing rotation, Norwich student nurses will attend new sites through Support and Services at Home (SASH), a statewide program that brings nursing services—including wellness, prevention, and chronic disease management programs—to individuals right in their neighborhoods. As the School of Nursing grows, additional clinical settings will be needed in order to accommodate students’ educational needs.
Additionally, Goldstein dedicates a large portion of her time to promoting the School of Nursing and its students to clinical facilities for the purposes of real-world clinical experience. Senior spring practicum placements require the consideration of many factors in order to best enable students to succeed at their placement site and beyond, as many of these placements will result in job opportunities upon graduation. Similarly, second semester sophomores through first semester seniors also rotate to clinical sites each semester. The matching of a student to a placement site is more art than science, which requires understanding each student’s experience and need, as well as each clinical site’s need.
Until now, the School of Nursing has not had a coordinator position dedicated to overseeing student compliance with requirements and mandatory competencies, acting as a liaison between Norwich and clinical sites, or advocating for and placing students going into the field. Prior to Goldstein coming on board, each of these responsibilities was accomplished by the nursing faculty for each course—in addition to their teaching assignments, committee work, and other scholarly activities. This new position allows faculty to refocus their attention and innovate in the classroom, as well as expand the use of the simulation lab and engage in scholarly work. It is a very welcome position indeed, to both faculty and students.
Spring senior practicum rotations are set up in the fall through a process where each student prepares a portfolio and cover letter that describes their experience in nursing and their interest areas. They are then matched with available placements. The process is competitive as students from surrounding nursing schools are also competing for the limited number of opportunities.
Second semester sophomores through first semester seniors also rotate to clinical sites each semester. These clinical experiences are augmented by simulation sessions in our simulation lab. However, the state of Vermont limits clinical simulation to no more than 25 percent of the total clinical hours for any one course, and as a result additional clinical settings will continue to be needed to accommodate the School of Nursing’s future growth.
Goldstein will play a key role in helping cultivate and maintain these clinical opportunities for students.