At Mercy Health, we are committed to creating and fostering an environment for growth – where our team members join for a job and stay for a career. We especially want our nurses and nursing students to feel supported and that they are given room to grow in their careers.
Our Blue Ribbon student experience is an extension of our ministry’s focus on career growth.
The elements of the experience ensure a caring, inclusive clinical experience for nursing students, which facilitates learning opportunities and provides students with the ability to give feedback about their experience. They join our ministry as a student or upon graduation, depending on their career goals.
The program is now approximately 100 units strong and continues to grow, with multiple success stories and an expanding partnership between nursing practice and nursing academia.
The root of success for the Blue Ribbon student experience is a committed leader and nursing team to deliver a welcoming and supportive environment for students and new nurses. One such leader is Tara Frank, a nurse manager at The Jewish Hospital – Mercy Health.
Since launching the Blue Ribbon student experience on her unit in the spring of 2022, Tara and her team (pictured above) have been helping new nurses grow in their careers.
“I feel like the team operates as a little family,” she says. “We take care of each other, which then directly transfers over to the care that we provide to our patients. So, we make sure that our students are a part of that family when they are on the unit with us. We welcome them in like they are our own.”
Tara, who has been with the ministry for two and half years, says she was immediately interested in becoming the first unit at The Jewish Hospital to implement this program.
“Our chief nursing officer, Vanessa Vonderhaar-Piccard, shared with me that there was going to be a new initiative surrounding our nursing students to offer them an enhanced clinical experience, with the goal of retaining them as RNs,” Tara explains. “I knew that I wanted to be part of it because we absolutely love having students on our unit. To be able to offer them an exceptional experience sounded great, but to be able to hire them as new nurses was even more appealing.”
For Tara, the most rewarding part of working on a Blue Ribbon unit is being able to enhance the learning that her clinical students have.
“I can remember being a student and being so intimidated as well as nervous about my clinicals,” she shares. “So, I love being able to lead a team to create a culture that everyone feels welcome. Witnessing the students make the connection to what they are learning in a lecture and seeing it in person is such a rewarding experience.”
She continues, “I also love the connections that we make between the staff and the students. They feel comfortable with each other, which makes the experience even better.”
Tara’s unit has three surgical nurse practitioners, as well as the wound ostomy registered nurse. So, students can learn about multiple areas in the nursing field.
“When there is an interesting dressing, complicated surgery or rare diagnosis, we love to have our students follow the unit experts to see how they care for these patients,” Tara says.
Embracing nursing students in different clinical areas allows our ministry to showcase many parts of our interdisciplinary approach.
The Blue Ribbon student experience sets our team apart in that the students know they will have a supportive environment to learn and grow during their career, according to Tara.
“Nursing students receive additional learning opportunities, from wound care to stroke education. It really shows the students that we really care for the patient as a whole, and we have so many disciplines involved in the care that students see their patients will get the best care possible while they are here with us. I also think it shows the new nurses that when they join our team, they will be supported from multiple avenues – which is so important for new nurses to see.”