DEUs connect USI students with local hospital staff, patients

Shannon Hall

The College of Nursing and Health Professions is living up to USI’s motto “Get the Edge” by adding a second dedicated education unit (DEU) for nursing students to utilize.

The nursing program began the semester with one DEU at St. Mary’s, but it now has a second one at Deaconess, which began in March.

“The benefit of the DEU is the ability to place students 24/7,” said Jennifer Titzer, USI nursing instructor and Deaconess DEU liaison.

The students work five 12-hour shifts during a four-week duration with trained nurses, called clinical teaching partners (CTPs), at USI on how to handle educating the students.

The traditional clinical model allows students to have a set schedule while the DEUs permit students to work with specific nurses where they can take ownership of what the students learn.

The nurses are “experts” at their unit, and they are providing USI students with hands-on experience, Titzer said.

“They’re there for a full 12 hours with those nurses, so they get to see the entire shift” she said. “They get to see those nurses come on, and they get to actually see them report to the next nurse on the night shift.”

The DEUs allow relationships to form and grow with those nurses.

“What I’m hearing students tell me is, ‘I feel very comfortable asking my nurse anything,’” Titzer said.

With the traditional model, students may not have felt as comfortable because it could be the first time working with that nurse, she said.

“(Students) are no longer seen as visitors on a unit for a day,” she said. “They’re seen as part of that unit.”

A problem commonly seen in nursing is something called lateral violence, which is when a new group of professional nurses come in and the seasoned ones are “not very nice,” Tizer said.

But the DEUs create a common ground with future and present nurses where they can engage more.

“(DEUs) start to diminish that lateral violence, and you get to have more of a collaborated effort on preparing those new nurses,” Titzer said.

USI is one of the first universities  in Indiana to start the DEUs for nursing.

“We are one of the pioneers going forward with this model,” Titzer said.

Ann White, College of Nursing and Health Professions dean, said USI is one out of about 20 nursing programs in the country that have DEUs, or programs similar to it.

Now USI faculty members, such as Titzer and Susan Seibert, USI nursing instructor and St. Mary’s liason, take phone calls from across the nation asking about DEUs, White said.

“It kind of like pay it forward – we started it,” she said. “People helped us and now we’re trying to figure out how to we can help other people and move forward in this type of environment. The faculty members have high expectations for the students, and I know that. And I know that we ask the students in our programs a lot.”

While the College of Nursing and Health Professions may ask a lot out of students, the results show these DEUs are working.

“(The hospitals’) patient satisfaction scores have soared, and the only thing they can (attribute) it to is the implementation of the dedicated education unit,” White said.

Though there’s not research data to support that, and the hospitals don’t know why the satisfaction is so high, the DEUs seem to not only help the students, but the patients at the hospitals as well, White said.

“The students absolutely love it,” she said. “The faculty is loving it because they can be at the faculty level and move these students forward.”

The plan is to expand the DEUs to other units outside nursing, such as respiratory therapy, White said, but big ideas take small steps.