Faculty Practice Program Takes the Classroom to the Clinic

Posted: January 3, 2011 at 1:05 am, Last Updated: December 22, 2010 at 1:54 pm

By Marjorie Musick

The new faculty practice program in Mason’s School of Nursing provides opportunities for students who are pursuing a nursing degree at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels to trade the classroom for the clinic by working with their instructors in health care settings.

“We have really great faculty with excellent clinical skills who are actively providing health care to patients, as well as teaching our students. The faculty practice program is a wonderful way for our instructors to help the community while maintaining up-to-date relevancy in their practice and teaching,” says Robin Remsburg, director of the School of Nursing and associate dean of the College of Health and Human Services.

Renee Milligan is a term professor in the School of Nursing. In addition to teaching a research course and serving as the coordinator and an instructor in the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program, she practices two days a week at a community-based women’s health clinic and social service agency in College Park, Md., called the Pregnancy Aid Center.

At the center, which provides culturally sensitive, individualized medical and mental health care to low-income women, adolescents and newborns, Milligan provides vital services such as Pap smears, breast exams, birth control prescriptions and maternity care.

“The center is a safety net. Many of my patients have very little traditional access to health care. We’re providing quality preventative services and treatments to these patients, including teenagers, who are among the poorest in Prince George’s County,” says Milligan.

Time at the clinic allows Milligan to keep her skills up to date and to take on public health initiatives such as encouraging the use of Gardasil, a vaccine that protects teens and women against human papillomavirus and cervical cancer.

Four students have already worked with Milligan at the clinic — an experience that earned them academic credit and professional training.

“The biggest benefit is being able to work side-by-side with students in the clinical area. They learn from me what an old warhorse practitioner knows, and I learn from them many of the newest care strategies,” says Milligan.

In addition to teaching undergraduate and doctoral courses and assisting in the administration of the DNP program, Lora Peppard, clinical assistant professor and psychiatric nurse practitioner, works with the Fairfax Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB) two days a week to provide mental health services. The CSB serves adults with severe and persistent mental illness, as well as children and adolescents who already have, or are at risk of developing, severe emotional disturbances.

Serving as a psychiatric nurse practitioner at the Board’s Springfield and Fairfax clinics, Peppard manages clients’ psychiatric medications and provides psychotherapy services in an outpatient setting.

Peppard is developing a new concentration in the school’s DNP program, psychiatric mental health, and graduates of the concentration will be able to sit for either psychiatric nurse practitioner or psychiatric clinical nurse specialist certifications. The curriculum will be identical, but differentiation will occur in their clinical placements. In the near future, Peppard will mentor students from this concentration in her practice at the CSB.

According to Peppard, the faculty practice program provides a win-win situation for both students and faculty.

“Our goal is to bring real-life practice experience into the classroom and enhance and enrich the students’ educational experience,” says Peppard. “Students are hungry for real-life examples of the profession they are about to enter into upon graduation. Keeping one foot in practice and one foot in the classroom allows me to meet the educational needs of the students while concurrently applying best practices within my specialty.”

Write to gazette at gazette@gmu.edu