UMass Amherst, Baystate Medical Center Collaborate on Nurse Training Program

AMHERST, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts and Baystate Medical Center (BMC) are working together on a three-year pilot project that addresses a number of important workforce issues affecting nurses in the region.

“Baystate Medical Center and UMass have joined together to respond to the challenges presented by a dwindling workforce of nurses in the region and throughout the country,” explained Eileen Breslin, dean of the School of Nursing. “Unless we do something quickly to replace the region’s highly trained nurses as they retire or leave the profession, healthcare resources at this end of the state will suffer.”

Through this collaboration, the UMass School of Nursing and Baystate Medical Center’s Division of Patient Care Services have developed educational and professional ties between baccalaureate nursing students in the clinical phase of their training and the western Massachusetts healthcare community. Beginning this semester, 16 third- and fourth-year students will work on-site at Baystate Health System (BHS) facilities for the clinical portion of their training. Facilities include BMC, Franklin Medical Center, BMC’s Children’s Hospital, Mary Lane Hospital, Wesson Women and Infant’s Unit, BHS outpatient and diagnostic centers, and the Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice of Western New England. By spring of 2004, a total of 32 students are expected to have completed and benefited from the collaborative program.

“We must look to innovative new partnerships between academic institutions, such as UMass, and hospitals like Baystate to deal with the challenges of ensuring an adequate and qualified nursing workforce and the development of professional nursing practice in the 21st century,” said Sharon Smith, vice president of patient care services at BMC.

“If this region can keep four-dozen nurses who’ve had the benefit of state-of-the-art university training as well as hands-on clinical experience in a Baystate setting, we all will benefit,” said Breslin. “Today’s nurses absolutely must understand and be comfortable working with many different types of medical technology, and they need the critical-thinking and research skills that only a university education provides. At the same time, they need good, solid experience working in a variety of clinical settings, from clinics to trauma centers. This program offers student nurses the best of both worlds, while it gives the community a chance to recruit highly skilled nurses trained right here in western Massachusetts.”

The UMass nursing students will work closely with Baystate nurses under the supervision of both BHS and UMass faculty, who will act as “culture brokers” for the students straddling the two systems. “Considering the breadth of the training and the geographic reach of the project, everyone involved will need some level of support. Our faculty members are ready to provide that support, and we believe their assistance will increase the likelihood that these students will choose to remain at a Baystate facility after graduation,” said Breslin.

Timothy Teehan, director of nursing staff development at BMC, said the collaboration is a “win-win” situation for both partners. “BHS will benefit from the expertise of faculty and staff at UMass who, with their access to the latest research will bring new ideas and new ways of doing things to the clinical setting, and assist us in measuring the effectiveness of our activities,” Teehan said.

“UMass will benefit as well, because we will provide their students an opportunity to practice in a variety of clinical settings, with our excellent nursing staff serving as professional role models,” Teehan said.

Since the participating faculty will spend part of each week during the academic calendar at a Baystate facility, they will be available to share their clinical expertise and assist Baystate nurses on a number of projects supporting staff development and the retention of new graduates. Faculty also will offer special professional-development training designed to meet the needs of Baystate nursing staff. To assist with the student training and professional-development expenses, BHS will contribute more than $475,000 over three years to the program.

This unique collaboration offers a number of additional benefits to UMass students and Baystate nurses, including a paid-internship program at BMC specifically for UMass nursing students. Twenty students enrolled in the UMass nursing program at any level, including freshman and sophomore pre-nursing students, may work in full-time summer internships or part-time positions during the academic year. In addition, a number of scholarships will be available to Baystate Health System employees enrolled in the UMass nursing program, provided they meet scholarship criteria.

Eileen Breslin can be reached at 413/545-5093, or