Applying Classroom Knowledge to Clinical Practice

Through rigorous coursework and hands-on clinical experience, students enrolled in the Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies’ online Master of Science degree in Nursing program acquire the skills and knowledge they need to advance their nursing careers and improve the health of communities around the U.S.

To discover how our students combine knowledge and practice, we asked current students and recent graduates how the program structure has impacted their real-life practice.

Learning and Practicing New Skills

Clinical placements allow students to apply knowledge and develop new skills with a preceptor. “It is a great feeling when diagnosing and treating a patient are spot on with clinical guidelines as well as your preceptors’ recommendations,” says Laura Hoste (G’14) of Texas. “Whether it’s […] prescribing the correct antibiotic or honing in on the right symptom, it helps build confidence when these aspects start falling into place.”

Clinical experience can also help reinforce the principles learned in the classroom. When Tricia Bursnall (G’14), of Colorado, began her master’s education, she started thinking about each patient she saw with a more observant eye. “When I was still working in the hospital, I felt that graduate classes encouraged me to look at a patient in a new light,” Bursnall says. “An increased understanding of the pathophysiology and pharmacology involved in patient care provided me with the ability to educate patients in new ways. In the clinical setting, I have had the good fortune to work with excellent diagnosticians who reinforce the skills from the didactic setting. My preceptor encouraged me to share the focus of our classroom topics for the week so that he could look for patients with a concern that matched that theme. A marriage between classroom and clinical offers a platform to learn and practice skills simultaneously.”

Raycor Faderugao (G’14), of Maryland, used new information from the classroom to improve care for his patients in the ICU. “The classes in pathophysiology and pharmacology further reinforce my understanding of patient care in the ICU,” Faderugao says. “Additionally, the class ‘Best Practices in Learning and Teaching’ validated the strategies and theories I utilized while writing the revised orientation program in our unit a year earlier. The chairs of the orientation committee and the unit’s administration have been very supportive of that initiative. It received favorable reviews from preceptors, the preceptees, and the nursing administration.”

Applying Research for Better Patient Care

Kara Kelly (G’14), of Maryland, used a research paper she wrote for class as the basis for a preventative care program. “I was able to take the foundation of a paper that I wrote for the evidence-based practice course and implement it,” Kelly says. “I had all of my clinical patients screened for body mass index and given proper educational counseling related to Healthy People 2020 objectives for weight management, which was very rewarding. I encourage students to take advantage of papers and projects within the program that they can then transcend into practice.”

By planning ahead, students can build cohesion between their advanced education and daily patient care. “At the beginning of the semester, I knew we had to write an in-depth research paper, so I wanted to write it on something useful,” Thinh Nguyen (G’14), of Virginia, says. “I approached the nurse clinician on my unit to find out what problems we were struggling with. She informed me that our post-operative patients were experiencing an unfavorably high percentage of ileus formations. From that information, I developed a research paper based on an analysis of gum chewing for postoperative ileus. I submitted my findings to my nurse clinician, and she was delighted! She forwarded the results to my nurse manager, who forwarded it to other administrative leaders in the hospital, and protocols are in the works on how to implement it on a wider scale across multiple units.”

Working toward a Master of Science degree in Nursing often includes translating new knowledge into clinical practice. Students can improve patient outcomes across the lifespan and make a lasting impact on health care.