Nursing Students Urge Professor to Require IHI Open School Courses

September 2013​

Nola Della-Monica, PhD, RN, an assistant professor of nursing at Emmanuel College in Boston, was getting feedback from her students at the end of the spring semester. She had asked each of them to take one IHI Open School online course and share some lessons with the class. She wanted to know if they liked the project and if she should keep it in the course.

Their feedback was loud and clear: Change the curriculum and require all the IHI Open School courses.

“They said, ‘This is so important that you need to make it a requirement for everyone,’” Della-Monica says. “They thought the content was so pertinent to their current practice.”

About 20 students seeking their master’s degree in nursing from Emmanuel will earn their IHI Open School Basic Certificate in the next year, thanks to the new requirement in the Advanced Roles in Professional Nursing course. Emmanuel is one of more than 200 schools around the world that have integrated the IHI Open School courses into their curricula. Della-Monica, a nurse who worked in intensive care, home health, and then administration, sees the content of the courses as critical for master’s-prepared nurses entering leadership roles in the workforce.

“Quality and safety bring us back to the basics of nursing, the things that we should care about,” she says. “It’s about giving the best patient care.”

That’s a mindset she wants to instill in her students as they enter leaderships roles in hospitals, clinics, and home health organizations around the country.

“We see Institute of Medicine reports and it’s so disheartening to think that we have strayed so far from our core of caring,” Della-Monica says. “Personal care and, with it, opportunities for assessment are rare in hospitals today. I often wonder if we spent even 5 or 10 more minutes with a patient, how often would we stop 2–3 extra days in the hospitals due to nosocomial infections or other events?”

Della-Monica started using the courses, which includes a module on person- and family-centered care, this past spring after reviewing a number of different potential resources.

“I don’t remember who told me about them or where I found them, but I looked at the content and it was really exciting,” she says. “It included quality, safety, and leadership, which is really important. These graduates need to be leaders within their institutions.”

She wasn’t sure if she wanted to require the courses right away, adding another significant assignment to a full curriculum. Instead, she created a model where each student would choose one of the IHI Open School modules and present it to the class.

“Students loved it,” Della-Monica said. “A few students even took it upon themselves to complete all the courses.”

After Della-Monica received the feedback from the students to require all the courses, she brought it back to her five-person faculty team to get buy-in. They decided to give students three semesters to complete all the courses — a summer, a fall, and a spring. Della-Monica may include some courses in classes for BSN students and is also considering integrating the IHI Open School Quality Improvement Practicum — a new course that walks students through how to set up and execute a quality improvement project — into her curriculum.

For now, though, Della-Monica’s master’s students are tasked with completing the 16 courses of the Basic Certificate.

“They need to hand me the certificate by the end of the course next spring,” she says. “I think they’ll find the coursework valuable.”​

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