Co-authors: Cathy MacDonald, Joanne Whitty-Rogers

Integration of cooperative learning experiences promotes innovative and creative learning opportunities for nursing students. A coop nursing experience was initiated by the two Schools of Nursing in Nova Scotia in collaboration/partnership with the Department of Health for the purpose of providing innovative recruitment and retention strategies in times of nursing shortages, while meeting the challenges of diverse populations within changing health care settings. Cooperative education encompasses the integration of nursing theory with clinical practice to bring realism to the work environment. Nursing 399 is a ten week elective, independent nursing practice course designed for 3rd year nursing students. The purpose of the course is to enable students to plan, implement and evaluate an independent cooperative experience in a health care setting (mutually convenient to each student and hiring agencies). The experience will occur in receptive institutions, where registered nurses are present at a unit level, during the time students are on duty. The participating health care agency/institution accepts students as nurse learners, who have knowledge, skill and experience common to third year St. Francis Xavier University B.Sc.N students. The expected outcome is that students will acquire increased knowledge, confidence, independence, and opportunities to practice previously acquired psychomotor nursing skills, while gaining experience working as a member of the health care team. Furthermore, the coop experience enables nursing students to select areas of primary interest, thus increasing awareness of their responsibility and accountability as future registered nurses. To evaluate the cooperative clinical experience, students and preceptors are required to complete evaluation forms midway and at the end of the experience. In addition, directors of patient care provide feedback on the overall process and recommendations for improvement. Moreover, students use journaling/ learning plans and a psychomotor skills checklist, to critical analyze their cooperative clinical experience and enhance their theoretical and clinical knowledge. Coordinators of the program review all of the evaluations to determine if the students meet the course requirements for Nursing 399. By building self confidence and competence through the cooperative experience, nursing students will be better prepared to meet the challenges of their first experiences as new graduate nurses. This presentation will disseminate findings of this St. Francis Xavier University Cooperative Learning Experience for the year 2004.