Published February 12, 2021
The School of Nursing has begun a new experiential-learning Dedicated Education Unit (DEU) with BryLin Behavioral Health System this semester, providing students with another clinical site to gain hands-on experience in the treatment of patients with mental health and substance abuse issues.
“The treatment program at BryLin Hospital offers a full spectrum of services needed for mental health care,” says Michele McKay, undergraduate clinical coordinator. “Along with group/individual therapies, recreation therapy and medication management, BryLin offers meditative and life skill activities, pet therapy, peer advocacy and family participation.
“This is in keeping with the School of Nursing’s holistic philosophy of caring for the whole patient.”
The school's latest DEU unit at BryLin joins the other experiential-learning programs available to its students. It has similar programs at numerous other community agencies, including the Visiting Nursing Association of Western New York, Catholic Health, Great Lakes Health and Hospice Buffalo.
The students taking part in these DEUs receive hands-on experience, mentorship and individualized learning. The clinical settings benefit because the DEU model strengthens academic-clinical partnerships and provides DEU nurses with professional development in clinical education. And the DEU supports the university’s role as a research institution.
All in all, the School of Nursing places more than half of its undergraduate students each semester in DEU clinical settings throughout the community. The school ensures that all students have at least one DEU experience during their undergraduate program, according to McKay.
Anthony Szarzanowicz, vice president of BryLin’s Patient Care Services, says the partnership with UB helps propel the hospital toward its mission to be the first choice for healing, wellness and recovery in behavioral health care through innovative and individualized care.
“DEUs are a great platform for teaching,” says Szarzanowicz. “As students gain experience in a clinical setting, our registered nurses gain experience in mentoring and coaching the next generation of RNs.
“With the DEU, we can actually have the BryLin staff member act as an instructor within the patient’s care experience,” he says. “The BryLin clinician has been educated to instruct, guide and train to provide that clinical experience for the students. It’s more of a peer-to-peer model where the student learns better.”
Students have started to rotate through BryLin’s Admissions Department, its Child & Adolescent Inpatient Program, Adult Inpatient Program and its Center of Excellence in Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) Program.
Since BryLin’s patient population includes adults, adolescents and children as young as 5, the students placed there for mental health clinical experience will get to see how treatment compares and contrasts among adults, children and adolescents.
“Along with learning about mental health diagnoses and treatments,” McKay says, “we hope that undergraduate students will be able to help in combatting the stigma of mental health and empower patients to say ‘I have depression, anxiety, bipolar disease ’… just as a patient with a physical diagnosis, such as cancer, heart disease … would.’”
While the nursing school has placed students at BryLin for clinical rotations since spring 2020, this semester is the first time the school will use its DEU model for the clinical experience, according to UB administrators. In this model, students will work side by side with their assigned DEU nurse, caring for the nurse’s patient assignment for their clinical day.
This is different from the traditional model where students are assigned a patient or patients to care for during their clinical day. There, they complete their nursing care under the supervision of their clinical instructor, who is trying to work with eight to 10 students.
The DEU model allows students to work individually with the DEU nurse, observing all aspects of the RN role.
“DEU nurses working with UB students have been trained in coaching the student to critically think, problem-solve and make sound clinical decisions to ensure safe and proactive patient care, as well as to give students positive and constructive feedback,” McKay says.
Junior nursing students will be the first to take part in the DEU experience at BryLin, McKay says. They will spend one-third of their semester’s clinical time at this site.
BryLin also has an outpatient Behavioral Health Center in Williamsville, and UB administrators hope to expand the DEU experience to include that program.
“The School of Nursing recognizes health care is moving to outpatient settings,” says McKay. “We are always looking for new partners to work with in providing primary care experiences for our students.