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Fairfield master’s program gets overhaul


Lynn Babington, RN, PhD, FAAN, professor and dean of Fairfield University’s School of Nursing, hasn’t been on the job long, but she is working on big changes to the school’s MSN program.

Backed by a $200,000 grant from the Kanarek Family Foundation, Babington and others at Fairfield are revamping the MSN program to better prepare nurse leaders for the demands created by healthcare reform. The project, “Innovation in the Masters of Science in Nursing Program: A Global Approach,” will expand collaborations with the school’s internal and external partners.

“The reason we are upgrading our master’s program is to be more innovative to meet the challenges of the current healthcare environment,” Babington said. “Those challenges include the real need for change agents, the need for advanced nurses with a clinical background but also with a strong background in business, finance and informatics to really use the systems to help lead the changes that will be coming about.”

Babington, who became dean June 1, said Fairfield is working to improve cooperation with its external partners — hospitals and institutions where students are sent for clinical placements — as well as its partners on campus, which include the Dolan School of Business, the College of Arts & Sciences, the Graduate School of Education & Allied Professions and even the School of Engineering.

“What we’re really talking about is developing systems to gather the right information to make decisions related to how care is organized,” Babington said. “We’re examining the quality outcomes as well as the financial outcomes of care delivery and care models, and some of that does come from a systems engineering background.”

The project is based on the Institute of Medicine’s 2010 report on the future of nursing. Babington said one of the main recommendations of the IOM report is to improve the quantity and quality of nurses, from the bedside to the boardroom. “With the rapid changes unfolding due to healthcare reform, nursing is positioned at the forefront to take on an important leadership role,” Robin Kanarek, RN, BSN, chair of the school of nursing’s advisory board and president of the Kanarek Family Foundation, said in a news release. “This project will prepare nurses for the tremendous opportunities in healthcare and at all levels.”

Babington said Fairfield’s collaboration with its external partners will go beyond gathering input. She envisions students working closely with a variety of professionals in complicated, real-world settings — what she calls “immersion experiences.”

“They might work with the hospital business development person as they are moving forward with buying up primary care practices in the area,” Babington said. “They might work with the quality management person as they’re unfolding evidence-based practice protocols in the hospital. They might be working with an insurance company as they coordinate these accountable care organizations as ways of paying for care delivered.”

Most of the students currently in Fairfield’s MSN program are clinically focused, Babington said, and the changes are designed to attract a different group of students focused more on systems.

More electives will be available next year, Babington said, when Fairfield hopes to have about 125 students in the MSN program, up from the current 94.

Tom Clegg is a freelance writer.


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