Polk State & BayCare launch externship for faculty to bring best practices to the classroom

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

In a collaborative effort to ensure that Polk State Nursing’s training remains relevant to the clinical experience, BayCare and Polk State have launched an externship program for faculty to work at the bedside and bring back best practices to their students.

Titled “The Bedside Bridge” in Professor of Nursing Jillian Capper’s presentation as part of the President’s Leadership Institute Class II, faculty are closing the gap between the classroom and field.

“My experience with the externship was to make what we are teaching in the classroom more current,” Capper explained. “For me, the most impactful part was not necessarily finding all the things we could do better, but re-immersing myself as a nurse on the unit. It keeps faculty current with what is going on out in the nursing field.”

“For the community at large, we are sending more educated and better-prepared nurses to all facilities,” she added. “They are getting the most up-to-date information from BayCare and they are taking that information forward to wherever they go and have clinical practice when they graduate.”

Capper and Professor of Nursing Sara Triplett piloted the program this summer spending 80 hours in BayCare’s Winter Haven Hospital over three to five weeks. The opportunity is funded by the Winter Haven Hospital Foundation.

Lisa Schlagel, Director of Nursing Development and Practice for the Polk Region of BayCare and a graduate of the Polk State Nursing Program, explained why the Winter Haven Hospital and Polk State teams collaborated to create this externship program.

“It’s really an opportunity for faculty to spend time in the hospital setting,” Schlagel said. “There are just some things that need to be seen, done, or experienced to fully appreciate and understand comprehensively. What we hope to do is to fully close that gap. Not only does it give faculty more confidence and competence; it really does earn them a level of respect.”

Through gaps they identified from their experience and current curriculum, Polk State Nursing faculty revised lectures and classroom activities to reflect the most current practices at the hospital. Students enrolled in the Fall 2023 Semester are already reaping the benefits of what their faculty learned this summer at Winter Haven Hospital, and the BayCare externship will bring in more Polk State faculty next year.

“We’re always evolving as nurses and so we teach our students from day one that change is going to be inevitable,” Triplett said. “Going to the hospital setting…, gives me the ability to tell [students] this is what I have seen, and this is how nurses are adapting to these changes.”

The need for registered nurses continues to grow locally and nationally, with this occupation listed consistently on the Regional Demand Occupations List for Polk County with approximately 300 vacancies each year.

“Polk State continuously produces excellent nurses at the bedside. They are more clinically prepared, and this is another way we are going to make them even more ready to be at the bedside.”

Polk State enrolls approximately 450 nursing students annually between both the Associate in Science and Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs. About 230 nurses graduate from Polk State each year, and with 70% of Polk State students remaining in Polk County after graduation, the College’s alumni can be found in nearly every healthcare system within the community.

“Polk State continuously produces excellent nurses at the bedside,” Capper said. “They are more clinically prepared, and this is another way we are going to make them even more ready to be at the bedside.”

“Polk State is the best program around,” Schlagel added. “It prepared me wonderfully and it continues to prepare people wonderfully today.”