Doctor of Nursing Practice Program

Heather Stafford, DNP, MBA, BSN, RN, NE-BC

Heather Stafford
  • Committee Chair Name & Credentials:
    Dr. Kenneth Nelson III, DNP, RN, NE-BC, CPHQ
  • Committee Member Name & Credentials:
    Dr. Matthew Martin, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, NHDP-BC, CPHQ


DNP Project Abstract

Implementation of a Dedicated Education Unit (DEU)

The purpose of this project is to implement a DEU on the PCU unit at TriStar Summit Medical Center with three objectives to improve:

  1. Improvement of nurse vacancy rate from 65% RN vacancy rate to <40% RN vacancy rate by 2023.
  2. Improvement in patient experience scores from 33.33% Top Box score to >70% by April 1, 2022.   
  3. Improvement in employee engagement score from 48% in October 2021 to a score of >70% for May 2022 Vital Voices Survey.  

The method used for this project was the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA).

Plan: A partnership with Cumberland University and TriStar Summit Medical Center for a Dedicated Education Unit (DEU) will better support nursing students with a better clinical experience, our patients with a better hospital experience, and ultimately improve the nurse staffing shortage on the hospital’s PCU unit as those students who are part of the DEU will want to pursue employment upon graduation from the nursing program. Employee moral will also increase as evidenced by employee engagement scores with the use of additional help with the students and engagement into the facility.

Do: Implementing the DEU program requires education and pre work to occur and communication is key to success. If the communication of this program is missed or all the key stakeholders do not have a clear understanding, the program is at risk for being less successful. Unexpected observations might be related to staffing, if the trained staff are pulled to other units or if they call in sick, how will float pool staff have the same training to support the students in a DEU?

Study: The data will be analyzed throughout the implementation and also post implementation in regards to RN vacancy rate, patient experience top box score, and employee engagement scores as evidence by the Vital Voices survey data.

Act: If the test shows the desired improvement, the next steps will be to adopt the DEU to include a second unit for the upcoming Fall 2022 semester. If the test shows limited improvements, we will continue to stay on one unit and make the necessary improvements over another semester before expanding the DEU program. The plan for next steps includes completing a survey with the Cumberland University nursing students to learn about their experience and also measure the defined goals for improvement.  

After the DEU implementation and completion of the semester, the results were favorable by the following metrics: 

  1. Patient Experience increased to 75% TopBox Score from 33.33% as measured by Press Ganey Data.  
  2. Employee Engagement scores increased to 82% favorable overall engagement, increase from 48% in October 2021.
  3. RN Vacancy rate has remained flat; however three students from the DEU have joined TriStar Summit as Patient Care Techs (PCTs) with the intent to join as RN upon graduation in December 2022.

Implications for Practice
Implications for practice with the implementation of a successful DEU include improving patient experience and an improving colleague experience. This project supported both the nursing staff with engagement, growth, and development and also the nursing students with a better clinical experience with better connection and engagement with their clinical instructors throughout the semester.

As a result of this project, the DEU has been adopted and will be expanded to an additional unit for the Fall 2022 semester.