Dominican, Rush Oak Park Hospital Partnership Creates Dedicated Education Unit for Nursing Students

 From left to right: Jennie Nuno, director of Patient Care Services and Nursing Practice, Rush Oak Park Hospital; Will Jones, 6W unit manager, Rush Oak Park Hospital; Dr. Tamara Bland, dean, Borra College of Health Sciences, Dominican University; and Angela Cooper, chief nursing officer, Rush Oak Park Hospital.

A new partnership with RUSH Oak Park Hospital will offer Dominican University nursing students a new opportunity for hands-on learning — and a way to grow the number of hospital nurses amid nationwide shortages.  

Beginning in January 2024, the first group of junior nursing students will join RUSH’s new Dedicated Education Unit (DEU) as part of their clinical training. Guided by RUSH Oak Park clinical instructors, Dominican students will immerse themselves in the role of a nurse, working with patients in the hospital’s 39-bed, medical-surgical unit three days a week for a rotation that can span from eight to 16 weeks. There, they will assess patients, provide patient care and administer medications.  

The students will have their own dedicated workspace separate from the nurse’s station, and they will have access to the hospital’s simulation lab where they can practice procedures like administering IV lines and using cardiac monitors. ​​​​​​​

“Our students want to work in small institutions where they can make a difference and have an impact — and RUSH Oak Park is that institution,” said Dr. Tamara Bland, dean of Dominican University’s Borra College of Health Sciences, who originated the proposal of the DEU for nursing students. “RUSH Oak Park is a more intimate, community hospital and the students will be able to see the impact they are having.”

The DEU model of nursing education partners schools and medical facilities to provide students with necessary clinical nursing training and enhanced learning from educators and clinical service providers within their community.  

The model also allows students to act as peer educators. When juniors become seniors, they will partner with a new cohort of junior nursing students, each working side-by-side with the same patients as the seniors take on a leadership role.

​​“Juniors will be able to take what they are learning in class and in the labs and bring it to the clinic,” Bland explained. “The senior student, who has already completed those courses and has a higher level of understanding and knowledge, will be able to provide peer-to-peer feedback with the instructor.”

Having students working and learning at the hospital can lead to employment there once they complete their education.

“Partnering with Dominican University expands our capacity to educate the nurses of tomorrow,” said Angela Cooper, chief nursing officer at RUSH Oak Park. “It helps ensure we have well-educated, well-trained and skilled nurses to meet the growing health care needs of the communities we serve.”

In turn, Dominican hopes the DEU will attract not only additional nursing students to its program, but also adjunct faculty from RUSH’s pool of clinical educators who are leading students in the DEU.  

“While the DEU creates this wonderful opportunity for our students, it also creates an academic setting and professional pathway for all educators involved in it to grow and flourish,” Bland said.  

By Yasmin Silva
Yasmin Silva