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Although nursing care has changed signi cantly over
the past 30 years, methods to clinically train nursing stu-
dents have not. The traditional model of clinical nursing
education, where a faculty member oversees a group of six
to eight students on an acute care unit for a 4- to 8-hour
shift, provides a haphazard approach to learning. A need
exists to nd innovative ways to e ectively train more nurs-
ing students to better prepare them for today’s health
care environment. Using a change framework, seven
approaches to clinical nursing education were created
through academic–practice partnerships. These approaches
may increase the e ectiveness and e ciency of the clinical
nursing education system.
severe nursing shortage is predicted over the next
20 years, fueled by nursing workforce retirements and
an increase in the aging population (American Associa-
tion of Colleges of Nursing, 2012). Despite this, nursing pro-
grams in the United States are turning away qualiﬁ ed nursing
applications at alarming rates. In 2011, 75,587 qualiﬁ ed appli-
cations were denied admission into baccalaureate nursing pro-
grams. A major reason for this capacity bottleneck was a lack of
clinical teaching sites for nursing students (American Associa-
tion of Colleges of Nursing, 2012).
Although nursing care has changed signiﬁ cantly over the
past 30 years, the methods to clinically educate nursing stu-
dents have not (Tanner, 2006). The current models of clinical
nursing education provide a haphazard approach to learning,
depending on the clinical unit and the patient census; there-
fore, learning experiences are varied among students. Inno-
vative ways to effectively educate more nursing students are
needed to better prepare them for the current health care en-
vironment. The purpose of this article is to outline a frame-
work for clinical education innovation that has the potential
to increase the effectiveness and efﬁ ciency of the clinical
nursing education system. In addition, this article provides a
description of the application of the framework that was used
to create new models of clinical nursing education through
The authors of two signiﬁ cant studies urged the nursing
profession to rethink clinical nursing education. In the publi-
cation, Educating Nurses: A Call for Radical Transformation,
Benner, Sutphen, Leonard, and Day (2010) argued that clini-
cal experiences should occur in a variety of settings, not just
in acute care units. They concluded that classroom learning
should be contextual and linked directly to clinical learning.
The landmark report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change,
Advancing Health (Institute of Medicine, 2011) includes a call
to redesign the nursing educational system to better meet the
demands of the current and future nursing practice environ-
ment. This redesign includes increasing nursing students’
community-based experiences and exposing students to com-
plex health care issues, such as those found in long-term care
settings. That report also called for a blurring of the demar-
Creating Innovative Models of Clinical
Victoria Niederhauser, DrPH, RN; Mary Schoessler, EdD, RN-BC;
Paula Marie Gubrud-Howe, EdD, RN, FAAN; Lois Magnussen, EdD, APRN; and
Estelle Codier, PhD, RN
Received: October 3, 2011
Accepted: June 27, 2012
Posted Online: October 11, 2012
Dr. Niederhauser is Dean and Professor, College of Nursing, University
of Tennessee Knoxville, Knoxville, Tennessee; Dr. Schoessler is Assistant
Professor, and Dr. Gubrud-Howe is Senior Associate Dean for Education
and Statewide Programs, Oregon Health & Science University, School of
Nursing, Portland, Oregon; and Dr. Magnussen is Professor (retired), and
Dr. Codier is Assistant Professor, School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene,
University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii.
This project was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Ex-
ecutive Nurse Fellows Program, and the Hawaii State Center for Nursing.
Dr. Schoessler and Dr. Gubrud-Howe received honoraria and travel
support from the University of Hawaii. The remaining authors have dis-
closed no potential con icts of interest, nancial or otherwise.
Address correspondence to Victoria Niederhauser, DrPH, RN, Dean
and Professor, College of Nursing, University of Tennessee Knoxville,
1200 Volunteer Boulevard, Knoxville, TN 37996-4180; e-mail: vniederh@
Journal of Nursing Education • Vol. 51, No. 11, 2012 603
INNOVATIVE CLINICAL MODELS
cation between didactic nursing classes and clinical nursing
Knowing there must be a better, more innovative way to ed-
ucate nursing students in clinical settings, we initiated a proj-
ect, using a change framework (Kotter & Rathgeber, 2005)
to identify and test new models of clinical nursing education,
with the goals of increasing clinical capacity, lowering costs
or using the same ﬁ nancial proﬁ le, and creating more targeted
and innovative learning activities for nursing students. This
was achieved through a collaborative approach between nurs-
ing academics and nursing practice by the provision of funding
to develop, implement, and evaluate pilot models for clinical
nursing education. The aims of this project included improv-
ing clinical nursing educational outcomes, increasing nursing
enrollment capacity, and developing nontraditional clinical
placements for nursing students. The project emphasized a
collaborative academic–practice partnership as a strategy for
creating innovative clinical learning opportunities. The overall
evaluation plan for this project used formative and summative
evaluation methodologies to determine the effect of each pilot
approach on clinical nursing education. The evaluation plan
also addressed the return on investment in terms of efﬁ ciency
(cost and clinical site availability) and effectiveness (quality
Kotter and Rathgeber (2005) argued that for change to be
successful, one must undertake a series of eight thoughtful
steps. The ﬁ rst two steps set the stage for change to occur and
include creating a sense of urgency and establishing a group
of people to guide the change process. The next step creates a
vision for change. The next four steps involve making change
happen and include communicating the vision, empowering
others to lead change, acknowledging short-term wins, and
perseverance. The ﬁ nal step targets ways to make change last
(Kotter & Rathgeber, 2005; Kotter, 2006). These eight steps
provided a solid framework for implementing our clinical
nursing education effort.
SETTING THE STAGE FOR CHANGE: CREATING
URGENCY AND DEVELOPING A GUIDING TEAM
To engage key stakeholders and create a sense of urgency
for clinical nursing education redesign, a series of presentations
were held at multiple health care facilities throughout the state
of Hawaii. In addition to individualized presentations, a Nursing
Education Redesign Summit, with more than 90 nurses, nurse
leaders, and faculty members, held in May 2009, brought inter-
ested stakeholders together at one event. The summit included
a brief presentation on the current models of clinical learning
for nursing students and several opportunities for discussions
regarding the need to reexamine clinical nursing education in
light of health care reform, high client acuity, limited availabil-
ity of clinical education sites, advances in technology, and the
increasing need for community-based nursing care.
In addition, seven paradoxes (Table 1), identiﬁ ed by nurses
in clinical settings and by nursing faculty at Oregon Health
Sciences University through focus group research conducted
by Dr. Paula Gubrud-Howe, were discussed among nursing
faculty and clinical nursing partners. These paradoxes were
derived from the issues and perspectives of academic nurs-
ing faculty and clinical nursing partners who work together
to educate nursing students. To overcome these paradoxes and
improve the effectiveness and efﬁ ciency of clinical education,
the participants were challenged to think “outside the box”
to create a better approach to clinical nursing education. The
discussion was centered on the assumption that brainstorming
and collaboration among nurses in academics and nurses in
practice settings was critical to the development of innovative
Breakout sessions followed the Summit presentations,
which used a community-based participatory approach to
identify issues and alternative solutions for clinical nursing
education in all types of settings. Some suggested alternative
● Reevaluate the usefulness of preconferences and post-
conferences, as they create a great deal of “coming and going”
on the unit and less time for clinical learning.
● Foster students’ continuity of clinical time, instructors,
and clinical units.
● Support a reciprocity relationship between a nursing pro-
gram and practice setting.
● Concentrate nursing students’ clinical time with less ob-
servation, moving from simple to complex skills and continu-
ally evaluating gaps in learning.
● Assess the clinical unit’s readiness for students, the unit’s
ratio of new nurse graduates and nursing students, and the abil-
ity to lower the staff’s workload when they are working with
● Communicate openly and frequently between practice
site and nursing program.
● Create consistency in clinical teaching approaches.
● Articulate clear expectations with nurses in the practice
setting for students’ clinical learning objectives.
● Ensure faculty competence and orientation to facility.
● Facilitate nursing students’ skills mastery in the labora-
tory and simulation prior to the clinical day.
● Foster continuity with community-based experiences,
such as following families or communities throughout the nurs-
ing student’s education (over several semesters).
● Thread concepts throughout all skills, simulations, and
clinical experiences to foster deep learning.
A focus of these early meetings was to create a sense of
urgency, as nearly half of all efforts to change fail due to the
inability to create a strong sense of urgency. The urgency rate
is high enough when approximately 75% of the people within
an organization believe that business as usual is unacceptable
PLANNING FOR THE CHANGE: VISION
To begin the process of developing innovative models of
clinical nursing education, a team of high-proﬁ le nurses from
various settings, referred to as the Clinical Education Redesign
Team (CERT), was created to guide the process. This guid-
604 Copyright © SLACK Incorporated
NIEDERHAUSER ET AL.
ing team was composed of people with strong credibility and
visibility in the nursing community. Kotter (2006) argued that
change transformation fails when people underestimate the
power of the guiding coalition. Furthermore, he believes that
the team should consist of people who can work together effec-
tively and who have enough power to lead the change.
The CERT reviewed the information from the brainstorm-
ing session at the Nursing Education Summit and had a series
of meetings to create a strategic plan for implementing the vi-
sion of how future nursing education models could differ from
those in the past. The vision involved creating clinical learning
environments that facilitated more effective targeted learning,
less downtime for students on the clinical units, less stress for
nursing faculty, and promulgating patient safety. One reoccur-
ring theme was the importance of a strong academic–practice
partnership between the nursing educational institution and the
nursing practice setting.
The CERT decided that the best way to proceed with their
plan was to create a process for the development, funding,
implementation, and evaluation of clinical nursing education
pilot projects. A similar project implemented through the Or-
egon Consortium for Nursing Education (Gubrud & Schoessler,
2009) guided the strategy to implement our pilot projects. Fund-
ing needed to be secured to provide support to pilot test new
models of clinical nursing education. Therefore, the team leader
(V.N.), a Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellow, used
$20,000 in leadership funds to partially support this project and
leveraged these funds to obtain an additional $35,000 from the
Hawaii State Center for Nursing. The Robert Wood Johnson
Executive Nurse Fellows funding supported the project’s infra-
structure, and the Hawaii State Center for Nursing funded the
MAKING IT HAPPEN: COMMUNICATION
The CERT developed a process for requests for proposals
to fund the pilot projects that was distributed to nursing lead-
ers and faculty members throughout the state of Hawaii. In
addition, the vision for the need to create innovative and effec-
tive clinical education models was communicated throughout
the nursing community via a series of presentations. During
these presentations, nurses in health care settings and nursing
faculty members were invited to collaborate and submit to the
CERT an innovative model for a clinical educational redesign
project for clinical nursing education at a health care or com-
munity-based setting. The CERT required that the co-directors
of the pilot projects represent at least one faculty member and
at least one nurse in a practice setting. Up to $10,000 in fund-
ing could be requested for each project. The CERT received
nine proposals to review and score based on a standardized al-
gorithm, and seven clinical redesign projects were selected to
pilot in spring 2010. Each pilot project’s co-director received
funding between $3,000 and $8,000 to support project imple-
Seven Partner Paradoxes Identi ed in the Clinical Education Environment
1. Patient safety and student learning: As patient acuity continues to increase and care requirements become more complex, sta nurses are
more reluctant to allow students to provide nursing care. Yet, students must have the experience of providing patient care to develop skills in
technical care and clinical judgment.
2. Increased enrollment with less resources: As schools of nursing increase enrollment to combat the projected nursing shortage, resources in
the clinical environment are becoming more limited due to increasing patient acuity and economic downturns.
3. Facility orientation and clinical competency and time for clinical practice: As the concern over patient safety grows, facilities are requiring
more site orientation and competency checks. Because facility orientation time is carved out of the total number of student hours dedicated to
clinical education, the demands for more orientation time decreases the hours devoted to student learning.
4. Documentation and access to electronic medical record (EMR) orientation: As more facilities move to the EMR, student orientation time
increases, and, in some cases, the students’ ability to access and document in the EMR is restricted, thus decreasing their opportunity to gather
critical patient information and learn to integrate documentation into their practice.
5. Shift length and student learning: Professional nurses may work 4-, 8-, 10-, or 12-hour shifts, and they structure their work ow with these
time frames in mind. Students partnered with professional nurses as clinical coaches may experience learning overload or miss out on key
aspects of the nursing day as they try to match schedules to accommodate varying shift times.
6. Sta productivity cost and student learning: Professional nursing sta must operate within tight productivity guidelines. Coaching students
is time consuming yet critical to student learning and patient safety. When students are on the nursing unit, professional nurses must weigh the
loss of productivity with the importance of student coaching. As the number of students increase, this problem increases.
7. Task orientation and clinical judgment: Should we focus clinical time on developing skills in task completion or in clinical judgment? As
professional nurses work harder and faster to deliver care, there is increased emphasis on ensuring that patient care tasks are completed.
This is compounded by nurses’ use of short-cut language to connote a whole set of work, such as “Students need to know how to hang an IV.”
One can interpret that as, “students need to perform the technical task”; however, if one probes the comment further, it is discovered that the
task includes approximately 17 decisions that need to be made when hanging an IV. So, while nurses insist that the students learn the tasks,
the tasks must be connected to multiple clinical judgments. Task orientation requires clinical judgment—it does not overshadow it—yet, our
language and the pressures of the workplace sometime seem to make it so.
Journal of Nursing Education • Vol. 51, No. 11, 2012 605
INNOVATIVE CLINICAL MODELS
MAKING IT HAPPEN: EMPOWERING OTHERS,
PRODUCING WINS, AND PERSEVERANCE
Because it was important to remove as many barriers as
possible, a concerted effort was made to keep the request for
proposal simple, direct, and short. In addition, because many
of the nurses had not previously written a proposal or a bud-
get, written feedback for improvement was provided to the
academic–practice team after their proposals were received
and their proposed clinical educational redesign projects were
deemed viable. The opportunity was given to submit a revised
proposal or budget within a 2-week period, and those who were
asked to revise and resubmit their proposals completed the revi-
sion within the speciﬁ ed time frame.
During the implementation phase, it was important to mini-
mize barriers and seek out and identify short-term wins (Kotter
& Rathgeber, 2005). The project co-directors checked in with
the CERT team leader on a monthly basis and any barriers were
addressed. Many short-term “wins” during the implementation
phase were communicated and celebrated. These communica-
tions included award notices that the project co-directors were
selected for funding of their pilot project, the securing of ad-
ditional funds ($35,000) from the Hawaii State Center for Nurs-
ing for the pilot projects, and the willingness of many RNs to
attend preceptor workshops that would prepare them to work
with students for the ﬁ rst time in their careers.
The seven projects were implemented and evaluated during
the spring 2010 semester. As the semester advanced, coach-
ing by the CERT team leader continued to ensure that all co-
directors completed the projects as planned and that they were
using the available funds to support their work. Assistance was
provided to ensure that all project evaluation requirements were
completed by the established time periods. All projects were
completed on time and all available funding was used.
The outcomes of this project were signiﬁ cant. A total of
15 health care and educational organizations and more than
500 people were involved in various aspects of this project,
including 12 presentations to key nursing leadership in acute
and community settings across the state of Hawaii. Eight RNs,
representing different health care and educational organizations
in the state, participated as members of the CERT. In addition,
the pilot projects involved 17 RNs as project co-directors, eight
health care organizations, 259 RNs and other health care per-
sonnel, and 140 students. All seven pilot projects met the dead-
lines and completed their evaluation by July 2010.
One of the most signiﬁ cant outcomes that is difﬁ cult to mea-
sure is the increased collaboration between nursing academ-
ics and nursing practice. The silos between nursing education
and nursing practice appear to be abating, and the vision for
increased collaboration between nurses and nursing faculty re-
garding clinical education is deﬁ nitely growing as a result of
these pilot projects. Furthermore, through project evaluations,
the visions for creating clinical learning environments that fa-
Example of an Exemplar Pilot Project
One of the pilot project grant awards was for the APPLE project (Avatar/Patient Program for Learning Enhancement). The purpose of this pilot
study was to explore the use of preprogrammed avatars (PPA) and avatars in multi-user virtual environments (MUVE) in nursing education. Two
study investigators—a university professor and an emergency department nurse in clinical practice—implemented PPA and MUVE learning
activities in four nursing courses across two semesters. Outcomes were measured by using both qualitative and quantitative evaluation data
from approximately 100 students and three instructors who participated in the learning activities.
In one activity, students participated in clinical patient rounds with the faculty member at a virtual hospital. In their avatar form, each student
participant logged in and arrived at the virtual hospital. The students initially worked in groups to review the basic concepts related to their
patients’ illnesses. After the students reviewed each of their patients in the group setting, the faculty member joined into the virtual space
and lled in knowledge gaps. Next, the group interviewed a virtual patient in a clinical setting—the emergency department, intensive care
unit, or clinic. In this portion of the clinical rounds, the students observed the patient’s reaction to illness and identi ed coping mechanisms
and knowledge gaps. In the nal portion of the clinical rounds, the group discussed perspectives on the patients’ experiences and goals for
The study ndings were striking. Both students and faculty reported outstanding learning outcomes. More than 90% of students reported good
to excellent learning experiences. When asked to describe their experiences, the students reported that the avatar learning activities helped
them to integrate course content in simulated clinical settings. They reported that immediate feedback, the experience of group learning, and
the opportunity to practice multidisciplinary and team skills all enhanced the integration of course content. Virtual world activities, they said,
were fun and energizing.
The orientation time required for APPLE learning activities ranged from 0 to 2 hours. Faculty members reported that the learning activities
delivered more learning in less time and with fewer resources than traditional teaching methods. The course faculty and students, in particular,
reported positive outcomes from using PPA and MUVE learning activities. The MUVE software used was free; only the PPA activities required
Both formative and summative evaluations demonstrated the e cacy of the APPLE program. The program involved minimal costs, e cient
student and faculty time, and the delivery of high-quality learning experiences with high levels of satisfaction for students and instructors alike.
The APPLE pilot project ndings became the foundation for application to and subsequent awarding of a National League for Nursing Research
in Nursing Education grant to continue the study of MUVE in nursing education.
606 Copyright © SLACK Incorporated
NIEDERHAUSER ET AL.
Clinical Education Redesign Projects, Goals, and Final Outcomes
Project Name Goal Outcome
Avatar Patient Program for
Advanced Learning (APPLE)
Reduce faculty workload • After a learning curve, faculty time to complete students’
evaluations was reduced.
• Positive student evaluations
• Received a National League for Nursing Research in
Nursing Education grant in August 2010 to replicate the
project on a larger scale and to evaluate the use of avatars
in clinical nursing education.
Integrating Simulation Learning
and Crisis Resources Management
Program for Medical–Surgical
Reduce faculty costsa; increase
student capacity at clinical sites
• Reduction of 50% full-time equivalent faculty with
addition of 50% GA for 58 students (cost savings of
$20,000 per year).
• Student-to-faculty ratio of 5 to 8 students in clinical
• Excellent student learning outcomes and high faculty
LEAD Learning–Service Community
Reduce faculty costsa; use
nontraditional clinical site for
• Increased student capacity at this clinical site with the
ability to have a faculty-to-student ratio of 1:15.
• Decreases acute care site demands
• Excellent student learning outcomes and high faculty
Innovative Models for Clinical
Nursing Education, Wilcox
Engage nurses in clinical nursing
• Ninety- ve people attended two sessions regarding
clinical redesign at Wilcox Memorial Hospital.
• Posttests demonstrated high interest and nursing’s
willingness to work with students and faculty to redesign
the clinical experience for students.
Learning Activities With HNIP
Preceptors Educating to Promote
Reduce faculty costsa; engage
nurses in clinical nursing
• Students who were precepted by HNIP-educated RNs
in the newborn nursery demonstrated consistently higher
ratings for their preceptors compared with students who
worked with RNs who did not p articipate in th e HNIP program.
• Faculty costs could be reduced if students were
consistently precepted in the nursery setting; therefore,
clinical faculty-to-student ratios could increase.
Maui Memorial Medical Center and
Maui Community College Clinical
Engage nurses in clinical nursing
• Increased collaboration between Maui Community
College and Maui Memorial Medical Center.
• Ninety-two RNs attended the 4-hour education session
on clinical redesign.
• Evaluations revealed positive comments regarding the
RNs’ role in educating students.
• The Clinical Teaching Associates program began at Maui
Memorial Medical Center in fall 2010.
Clinical Education Redesign
Partnership Proposal, Castle
Reduce faculty costsa; engage
nurses in clinical nursing education;
increase capacity in clinical sites
• Reduction in the number of students in clinical units
(may reduce stress on sta and reduce student error
risks) and increase targeted clinical learning and targeted
simulation time for students.
• Student-to-faculty ratios could be increased with the
use of a GA to conduct the simulation or increasing the
numbers of students precepted on units.
• Excellent student learning outcomes (no di erence
noted between these pilot groups and traditional groups
in HESI™ scores and clinical site evaluations) and high faculty
Note. GA = graduate assistant; LEAD = Leadership, evidence-based research, active member of the team, decision making; HNIP = Hawaii Nurse Internship Program;
HESI = Health Education Systems, Inc. examination.
a Without a ecting student learning.
Journal of Nursing Education • Vol. 51, No. 11, 2012 607
INNOVATIVE CLINICAL MODELS
cilitated more effective targeted learning, less down time for
students on the clinical units, less stress for nursing faculty, and
promulgating patient safety, were realized. Table 2 provides an
exemplar pilot project, and Table 3 describes the intended goals
of each of the pilot projects and the ﬁ nal outcomes.
MAKING CHANGE LAST
Several of these pilot projects have been expanded for use
with more students; others have used the lessons learned to
improve the clinical experience for students. As a result of the
pilot data, one project received National League for Nursing
Research in Nursing Education grant funds to continue to evalu-
ate outcomes, and additional funds are being requested from
the National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Health-
care Research and Quality. The Creating Innovative Models for
Nursing Education process is being replicated in 2012 in the
state of New Jersey.
The Kotter and Rathgeber (2005) and Kotter (2006) change
framework provided a solid foundation for examining strategy
that can infuse innovation into clinical nursing education. As
demonstrated through our experience in Hawaii, the effects of
the academic–practice projects are numerous. By working col-
laboratively, there is better alignment of nursing academics
and nursing practice. In addition, new models with increasing
capacity for nursing students in the midst of a shortage of clini-
cal sites will maximize scarce resources. Furthermore, increasing
the ability for practicing nurses in health care settings to assist
with educating nursing students may improve clinical learning
outcomes. This process and these successful models can be repli-
cated by other nursing schools both nationally and internationally.
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American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2012). The impact of the
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Benner, P., Sutphen, M., Leonard, V., & Day, L. (2010). Educating nurses:
A call for radical transformation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Gubrud, P.M., & Schoessler, M. (2009). OCNE clinical education model.
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reﬂ ections (pp. 39-58). New York, NY: National League for Nursing.
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vancing health. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Kotter, J., & Rathgeber, H. (2005). Our iceberg is melting. New York, NY:
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Kotter, J.P. (2006). Leading change. In H.B. Review (Ed.), Leading through
change (pp. 1-18). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press Books.
Tanner, C. (2006). The next transformation: Clinical education. Journal of
Nursing Education, 45, 99-100.
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