Impact of a summer extern program on nursing student’s awareness of interprofessional collaboration and healthy, healing environments: A level II quasi-experimental design

Lisa A. Ruth-Sahd


Background: Student nurse externships bridge the gap between education and practice. These programs expose student’s to the interprofessional healthcare team, the work environment and its impact on themselves as well as their patients.

Methods: Research Objective/Questions: 1) What is the nurse externs’ knowledge of a healthy healing environment (HHE) at the beginning of an 8 week summer externship program? 2) How does participation in the interprofessional externship inform the externs’ knowledge and awareness of a HHE and 3) How does this knowledge affect the extern themselves and their patient outcomes? Design: A Level II Quasi-Experimental design was completed in 2013-2015 involving 3 cohorts each with 20 externs. Participants and Setting: A convenience sample of student nurses from baccalaureate and associate degree nursing programs who participated in a nursing externship. Methods: After informed consent, a survey of open-ended questions was administered at the beginning (week 1) and end (week 8) of the externship. Survey findings were compared using thematic content analysis.

Results: At the outset, externs demonstrated basic knowledge as to what a HHE means. By the end, externs were able to describe in depth a HHE for themselves and their patients. They also described their role on an interprofessional health care team when establishing and maintaining a HHE. Findings were 1) increased cognizance of a HHE (88%); 2) enhanced mindfulness of working in a truly collaborative manner with the interprofessional healthcare team to improve decision-making (85%); 3) broadened recognition how skilled communication among all interprofessional team members leads to a HHE (85%); and 4) raised awareness of a HHE positively affecting their own health and improved outcomes in their patients (90%).

Conclusions: The externs’ perceptions of a HHE broadened over the course of the externship as did their understanding of their obligations in forming and maintaining a HHE. Externs also described the impact on patient outcomes.


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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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