Nursing School Clinical Diversity Puts Students’ Knowledge to the Test

It’s quite a leap for accelerated nursing school students to go from college classwork to working hands-on in healthcare facilities. It’s one thing to study medicine in a school setting, but it’s another thing entirely to get hands-on with patients in a real-world healthcare environment.

This is where the Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing program excels. Marquette University provides nursing school clinicals of such depth and diversity that its graduates are ready to handle whatever medical challenges may come, with aplomb. Oftentimes traditional BSN clinicals don’t start until a student’s second year, but Marquette University’s accredited nursing program immerses students into the experience immediately, providing more than 1,000 hours of clinical experience and simulation.

“Most of the candidates I work with, when I ask what they’re looking for in a program, say they want a hands-on experience. That is a big, big thing,” says Rob Hayworth, admissions adviser for the Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing program (Direct Entry MSN). “Some schools may provide something like 500+ clinical hours…but our students get about 1,000 hours, starting two and half months into the program. That’s a big chunk of time and a huge advantage right there.”

Where Rubber Meets Road

Nursing simulation labs provide tremendous starting information, but in-hospital clinical rotations foster a far deeper understanding of the nursing profession by putting students in direct contact with patients for valuable, hands-on experience. To best prepare for the work ahead, accelerated nursing students who wish to earn an MSN in less than two years start clinical rotations right away, during their first semester.

Direct Entry MSN students can expect to complete their clinical practicum hours at various healthcare facilities throughout southern Wisconsin (near Kenosha and Racine) and northern Illinois, near Chicago (including Barrington, Hinsdale, Lake Forest, Libertyville, Lindenhurst, Woodstock, and Zion).

“Our nursing school clinicals are diverse in that students will get a breadth of different experiences at different facilities in different types of units—from orthopedics to medical surgery to oncology to ICU, along with observational experiences in operating rooms and outpatient clinics,” explains Brenda Kutzke, MSN, RN, Director of Nursing Academic Services for Marquette University, College of Nursing. “This gives them lots of exposure to different areas and different hospital systems, which greatly enhances their learning.”

While experienced clinical instructors share valuable insights and experiences, showing you how to put your nursing theory and clinical skills to work, the critical work of learning how to build rapport with patients simply takes time and practice. Toward that end, your preceptor can demonstrate how to care genuinely for your patients, communicate effectively and respectfully, perform therapeutic interventions safely and conduct yourself ethically.

“When looking for a nursing school, the three most important things to me were a good reputation, good engagement with students and a program that offered a diverse clinical experience,” explains William Mason, Direct Entry MSN student. “I looked at Marquette University’s website and saw how clinicals were laid out and their degree plan and it was amazing. The Direct Entry MSN program seemed more well-rounded than some of the other ones I looked at. Ultimately, it was the best choice.”

Covering All the Bases

With start dates in January and August each year, the Direct Entry MSN program leverages students’ non-nursing bachelor’s degrees so they can jump right into professional nursing study (following successful completion of prerequisite courses). Kutzke suggests potential students learn as much as they can and get a feel for what they’re undertaking via healthcare experience prior to starting the program—either by getting a CNA, shadowing a nurse, etc. “Our admissions team does a really good job encouraging students to gain additional experience while they complete their prereqs—that’s important. If they have an opportunity to get their CNA, while it’s not a requirement, it can be very helpful,” she says.

Academic Foundation

Marquette University’s 18- to 21-month accelerated nursing program provides the academic foundation and clinical skills required to sit for the NCLEX-RN licensure exam. It is comprised of five semesters of online and onsite full-time work in a values-based, nonprofit university setting. Students have tremendous flexibility with a proven blended learning model that includes online nursing theory courses, allowing learning anytime and anywhere, alongside their simulation labs and clinical rotations. Students utilize Canvas, an interactive, multimedia e-learning platform, to work at their own pace while still meeting appropriate instructor deadlines.

Clinical Variety

The length and location for each of your nursing school clinicals will vary, but you can anticipate working with a variety of patients. While there are no specific pediatric or obstetric clinicals at this time, students may still observe those types of patients and experiences. Regardless, having such a wide range of involvement not only builds your skills portfolio, but also helps pinpoint which facet of nursing best fits your long-term career goals.

Immediate Hands-on Practice

“Students get hands-on immediately, meaning providing personal care like bathing, feeding and grooming, and also doing vital signs and assessments. Those are all experiences they do right away during their first semester,” Kutzke says.

“They start in long-term care as their first clinical experience and then go directly into acute care. They also get other types of leadership- and interdisciplinary experiences, including working with the multidisciplinary care team. They are encouraged to follow their patients, whether they be radiology, surgery or outpatient, throughout their continuum of care.”

Going to the Next Level

Additionally, clinical rotations also are helpful in determining whether a post-master’s degree certificate in an advanced nursing specialty may be an appropriate next step.

A Master of Science in Nursing degree provides the academic foundation required to pursue post-master’s education and certification in areas such as:

  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Nursing Administration
  • Nurse Midwife

Academic Excellence

At Marquette University, we uphold a continuous commitment to academic excellence, and it shows through our accreditations at the national, regional, and state levels. With a degree from our Direct Entry MSN program, you can be confident your education meets today’s professional nursing standards and prepares you to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. And, should you decide to pursue a doctoral degree in nursing practice or research, your MSN degree from an accredited nonprofit university like Marquette will be recognized.

The Marquette Advantage

When motivated healthcare students work elbow-to-elbow with dedicated healthcare professionals, a little magic seems to happen. Kutzke describes the surprising bliss that comes from long days of learning. “The students love it and they want more. It’s an eight-hour clinical day, but students are expected to come early—the day of or even the night before—to prepare and review the student charts so they know about all the medications and patients they’ve been assigned at the hospital and the treatments needed,” she says.

While this true-to-life preparation helps students get a feel for what they can expect later in their careers, the benefits are not all one-sided. Kutzke jokes that Marquette University’s many clinical sites roll out the red carpet because they so want the students to come to their facilities.

“Last summer I visited ten of our clinical sites and, of those ten, seven of them had ties to Marquette and our Marquette graduates,” Kutzke recalls. “A CNO I was talking to was a Marquette graduate, a manager was a Marquette graduate, their kids were Marquette graduates, the best nurse on their floor was a Marquette graduate… They all had ties and something wonderful to say about the Marquette nursing program. We know we are making an impact.”

Ready to get the Marquette Advantage? Contact us to learn more about our Direct Entry MSN and get the real-world experience that sets our students apart.

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