Taking a play from their head football coach’s playbook, faculty at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing have created a values education strategy, called the "Professional Values Program for Nursing” that challenges nursing students to demonstrate professionalism—and recognizes students for their efforts.
"Our nursing program is very competitive, and we know that our students are very bright, but being intelligent isn’t all there is to it. Student nurses also need to know how to behave professionally,” says assistant professor of nursing Amy Shay, who along with nursing instructor Karen Beckstedt got the inspiration for the program from Bearcats head coach Butch Jones after hearing him speak about his Bearcat Olympics program at Football Faculty Appreciation Night in March of 2011.
"That evening Karen and I were not sitting anywhere near each other and later learned that we both were thinking, ‘He’s on to something’ and how do we apply it to our nursing students,” says Shay.
What the Bearcat Olympics and the nursing program have in common is quite simple: actions and accountability. For example, at UC football players are divided into teams and awarded points for demonstrating specific actions in the classroom, on the field, and in the community. The teams with the most points are rewarded with special gear or recognition, such as a team photo displayed in plain sight of their peers and of course, the bragging rights as winner.
For both nursing and football, it’s about "teaching those values that define character and then showing what the resulting behavior looks like”, says Shay.
"I think it’s exciting,” Jones says of learning that the nursing faculty had adopted elements of his program for nursing students. "You have to reward the responses that you want—a lot of times we assume because we put it on paper or in a book that they understand it.”
Understanding how to behave professionally and work as a team is critical in healthcare, so the nurse educators tweaked the concept and ran a pilot program at the UC East campus, identifying teams of students already in place for their clinical rotations, and awarded points based on their professionalism in different circumstances, such as being prepared and on time for rotations, or being on a team with the highest average score on an exam or quiz.
"About halfway through the pilot we decided it was working, and it was amazing,” says Beckstedt.
"It helps connect you with your classmates to build relationships. That’s a good skill to have in the hospital setting,” says junior nursing student Kayla Eaton.
While the points do not affect student grades, the program creates competition, which in turn breeds excellence and causes peers to be invested in their teammates’ behaviors.
And winning has its perks.
The latest round of winners were treated to tickets to the Delaware State/UC game Sept. 15 and a walk-on-the-field moment at UC’s Nippert Stadium—all at the invitation of Butch Jones, head coach for the Bearcats.