Set to begin this fall with the first of nine cohorts, the Washington Squared program is designed to help nursing students with experience in other fields develop and grow through clinical training at a private, nonprofit hospital in Washington, D.C. Students receive a 50% tuition scholarship and employment after successfully fulfilling their clinical rotations at the hospital center.
“We were looking for an academic partner to help us develop a range of nursing research and degree programs,” said Susan Eckert, RN, MSN, NEA-BC, CENP, senior vice president and chief nursing executive at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “George Washington University School of Nursing was looking for a clinical partnership. The timing was perfect.”
The new partnership with the 926-bed hospital center, which has a robust residency program, is special, said Jean Johnson, RN, PhD, FAAN, dean of GWSON.
“They offer our students the scholarship in return for work. That is incredibly valuable for our students,” Johnson said, adding that Washington Squared students will work in a large hospital that pays well and provides a vast array of clinical experiences for new grads.
The hospital center understands the students in the accelerated BSN program are mature, motivated and have really thought about their profession, “which means they are probably committed to whatever first job they have and that they will stay in nursing,” Johnson said.
“They are a very bright group and they bring a lot of experience working in other areas,” she said. “Having expertise in other areas is always informative to nurses.”
Students interested in Washington Squared must complete the school’s regular admission process. A separate application is necessary for the program, and the hospital center has discretion in selecting the scholarship award recipients and clinical placements. As of March, more than 100 applications were received for the first cohort’s 24 vacancies.
Second-degree students enhance nursing teams because their life experience often allows them to quickly understand the psychosocial issues for patients, said Catherine Reisenberg, APRN, PhD, FNP-BC, CMSRN, a senior clinical nursing instructor at the hospital center and Washington Squared program director.
“Everything I’ve done has been in nursing,” she said. “I really enjoy working with the students and nurses who are seeking a second-degree bachelor’s in nursing because they do have that different perspective.”
Students in the Washington Squared program are promised a job upon graduation provided the student does not default on the contract, such as by failing a course or engaging in significant unprofessional behavior, Reisenberg said. Students receive a 50% tuition scholarship and employment after successfully fulfilling their clinical rotations at the hospital center.
“When we select applicants into the program, we are looking for individuals who are academically strong and demonstrate the potential to be an excellent nurse and employee,” she said.
The hospital center offers many specialties and clinical practices so the Washington Squared students can get exposed to a wide range of experiences. It hires many second-degree nurses because they often bring real-world critical thinking, practical experience and different perspectives that add significantly to the professional practice.
“A nurse who comes with an IT background, for example, can contribute to nursing informatics — a large and growing part of any healthcare environment,” Eckert said. “A nurse with teaching experience may eventually have an interest in nursing education. As a large hospital with a variety of practice options, we understand and support those who want to continue to grow and develop their careers.”
Robin Farmer is a freelance writer.
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