If you’re pursuing a health care degree, how do you know you’re gaining the skills and knowledge to handle the latest issues in your field?

Capella University’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences has created an advisory board to guide the school on curricula and other educational initiatives. The focus is on keeping curricula continually updated, so Capella students will always receive a cutting-edge education that will help them readily adapt to today’s health care workplace.

Capella’s board is comprised of 13 health care leaders, all of whom have deep experience in, and currently work or practice in some aspect of, nursing and health care. Each brings a varied perspective gleaned from working directly with patients or in executive leadership positions with some of the world’s top associations and health care organizations.

So what is the impact of the advisory board for Capella’s students? Capella leaders and several board members share their perspectives.

 

Preparing the Future Workforce

“They provide us with the information we need to keep us relevant and credible,” says Patrick Robinson, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences. “They help us form strategy at a high level and provide a conduit for us into their organizations, leaders, and workforce. They infuse us with credibility.” That credibility serves students, who can be confident that their education will prepare them for today’s health care roles, as well as future employers who are looking for the best candidates.

Board member Cathleen Wheatley, chief nurse executive and vice president of clinical operations for Wake Forest Baptist Health, agrees. “It’s of great importance to have a board filled with leaders in the field of nursing, and from all different aspects of nursing,” she says. “The industry is changing drastically. Nursing curricula must change to prepare nurses in new ways and for new roles. Hearing directly from industry leaders as to what those changes and needs are is critical for informing the preparation of the future nursing workforce.”

That input from external experts can drive Capella to meet the needs of the marketplace much more nimbly and effectively. “As we think about what’s important to being a leader in health care organizations, we need to always assess our curriculum at all levels to make sure it’s effectively designed to meet the needs of the dynamic health care field,” says Jennifer Hoff, vice president and general manager of the College of Nursing, Health, and Behavioral Sciences.

 

Stronger Foundation for Nursing Careers

Board member Honor Martin, vice president of clinical services for Aspire of Western New York, already had strong praise for Capella’s program before joining the board. “I was working with a hospital looking at nursing education and had the opportunity to review Capella’s coursework,” she says. “I was stunned at how well it was done and began talking it up to the nurses I worked with.” She felt that Capella provided an excellent education that would serve future nurses well in the employment market.

Martin was excited at the opportunity to play a role in keeping that curriculum at a high level of quality, and she notes that her fellow board members are equally keen. But also important, she says, is Capella’s receptiveness to the board’s thoughts. “Capella is the most non-ivory-towered place I’ve ever seen,” she says. “I’ve been on many advisory boards in nursing, and I’m impressed with how Capella listens. What we say is heard—we know it will be researched and supported. With that level of buy-in, they’ll for sure hit the target in the external market.”

That’s because graduates will be on top of what employers need. Becca Miller, Capella’s Senior Director of Employer Solutions, notes, “Students will go through a program that’s being driven by what employers need in their workforce to handle the constant change in health care.” We’re learning what competencies students need and what skill gaps exist in the market. We use that information to develop those competencies in our coursework and fill those gaps.”

 

Achievements Gained and More to Come

The board has been active for one year, and it has already made a difference. Miller describes one outcome of the first year: “We developed new reporting for employees so they could see their employee’s progression against key competencies that were important to them. The board gave us feedback on what information is important to measure and how to most effectively show the impact learning is having on their organizations. We used their feedback to influence the design of our reporting and that ultimately led to a better end result.”

Moving into the second year, the board has some ambitious goals:

  • To continue to evaluate workforce competencies.
  • To identify needs in nursing education that are not currently being met.
  • To develop business acumen and leadership in nurses.
  • To explore the development of non-degree solutions and micro-learning that would allow employers to retain employees by focusing on high-impact competencies.
  • To understand how organizations are thinking about and planning for changes in the Affordable Care Act.

The bottom line, as always, is patient care. “We’re developing new roles and curricula for those new roles,” says Wheatley. “On the board, we educate each other on resources and technology—how can we address care needs in new ways? We have to expand and extend the nurse’s ability to care for the patient. We also have to watch trends going forward, whether it’s interdisciplinary education as nurses become less and less siloed in their roles, the advancement of population health, or the shift from in-patient to out-patient services.”

One factor in the success of the board has to do with the board members themselves. “To make this work, it takes real commitment,” says Hoff. “The board has to be active to succeed. Ours is very active. They’re very engaged. That makes all the difference.”

 

Learn more about Capella’s Nursing and Health Sciences Advisory Board.

Learn more about Capella’s online nursing degree programs.

Learn more about Capella’s online health administration and public health degree programs.

Important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended these programs.
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