Note's from the Dean's Desk


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Marie Ann Marino, EdD, RN, FAAN

Dean and Professor, Thomas Jefferson University - College of Nursing 
Vice President, Nursing Academic Partnerships & Innovation - Jefferson Health

Ciao, Roma: College of Nursing Students Shine on the World Stage

Improved education and healthcare are truly worldwide concerns, and Thomas Jefferson University is assuming an ever-larger role in addressing those global issues with the Jefferson College of Nursing being an integral part of that effort. Working through Jefferson’s Global Centers the College has forged collaborative relationships with faculty and students in India, Japan, Israel, and Italy.

The Jefferson Italy Center, under Director Ignazio R. Marino, MD, ScD, Professor of Surgery, Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University and Executive Vice President for International Innovative Strategic Ventures, Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health, provides a formal centralized system for strategic partnerships between Jefferson and Italian institutions that maximize our collective impact on individual and population health.

This spring, a group of 11 undergraduate students and two faculty (Drs. Mariann Kerr and Megan Mook) from the Jefferson College of Nursing engaged in a three-week clinical capstone at Fondazione Policlinico Universitario Agostino Gemelli Hospital/Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. Gemelli, ranked by Newsweek as the 37th best hospital in the world, served as an ideal clinical partner for students to hone their professional and clinical nursing skills. The experience, a year in the making, was facilitated by outstanding leadership from Dr. Mary Hanson-Zalot, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Jefferson College of Nursing. Planning included a site visit to Rome to engage with Italian nursing leadership, survey the clinical site, select preceptors, determine clearance and onboarding requirements, and to develop an evaluation plan for the capstone. 

Dr. Hanson-Zalot shared the following, “The opportunity to arrange an inaugural study abroad program for baccalaureate nursing students was transformative for the faculty as well as for the students who travelled to Rome for their clinical education. There is no better way to offer experiential learning than to immerse students in an environment that challenges their thinking and enhances their skills as a nurse. Everyday Dean Marino encourages us to push past traditional boundaries and create novel and dynamic learning experiences for our students. The Gemelli clinical placement was an ideal setting to reflect this type of innovation and now stands as a model for future immersion experiences to come.”

The College would like to extend a special thank you for a very generous donation by Marilyn D. Harris, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN to support the travel costs of students. These students are known as Jefferson College of Nursing Harris Scholars. Marilyn Harris, a member of my Advisory Council and alumnus of Abington Memorial Hospital School of Nursing (a legacy school of Jefferson College of Nursing), has essentially eliminated the ‘ability to pay’ as a qualification for engaging in this experience.

Shortly before joining the students in Rome, I had the opportunity to connect Marilyn with the Harris Scholars via Zoom. The session provided opportunities for students to express their gratitude for her support and to pay tribute to Gemelli’s nurse leaders and preceptors who were playing an important role in their transition to professional nursing. As a home care nurse herself, Marilyn Harris was interested in how Italian patients transition from the acute care environment of the hospital to their home and community. The students outlined the numerous experiences they had in transitional care and described how Italian hospitals prepare patients and families for discharge. They shared one of the most important lessons they learned: the challenge of communicating with patients and families who speak a different language. Many of them stated they will remember this challenge when caring for patients and families here in the United States.

“We’ve seen a lot about things we’d only heard about in lectures,” said Juhi Mehta, whose capstone came in the medical ICU unit. She noted that she spent time working with a patient recovering from a spinal cord injury “which is something I’d learned about right before we came to Rome.”

Shadyra Thompson, who was assigned to Gemelli’s Women’s Health Oncology unit and the Labor and Delivery (L&D) unit, said she learned that the L&D “discharge protocol is similar to the United States.”  She went on to point out differences to the U.S., “Gemelli has a separate emergency department entrance and floor designated for OB/GYN to help with infection prevention and control for pregnant women.”

I am delighted with the profound impact this inaugural capstone in Italy had on our students and know that this will have a lasting effect on their professional nursing careers. I look forward to planning next year’s Gemelli cohort, which will expand to include a cohort of our adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner students and faculty, and to hosting our Italian nurse colleagues here in the Fall!