Graduate students in the College of Nursing are required to complete practicums in clinical settings before completing the degree program. For the first time, there is a dedicated college staff member helping to nurture and grow those clinical partnerships to support nursing students.
Jeanne Cavanaugh, a ’77 BSN and ’84 MSN alumna of the college, joined the staff of the College of Nursing as Director of Clinical Partnerships this spring. Cavanaugh joined the college after retiring from Palmetto Health after a 37-year career ranging from staff nurse in the ICU to Director of Nursing for Oncology and Emergency Services.
In her new role, Cavanaugh is responsible for maintaining the partnership agreements the college has in place with providers and health care systems and growing new relationships and agreements to support graduate nursing students. She primarily supports students in the nurse practitioner track, and clinical partnerships are a vital part of the nurse practitioner program. In addition to classroom experiences, clinical exposure through a practicum is key to student success.
“In order for new professionals to enter the workforce well prepared, there needs to be support for students during the educational process,” Cavanaugh said. “Our student numbers are rising, which translates to needing more partners to support them.”
Those partners vary from nurse practitioners in a student’s area of interest to physicians who are supportive of the growth in nurse practitioners. With over 400 students across three nurse practitioner programs, it is a challenge to find preceptors willing and able to work with this growing number of graduate nursing students. Cavanaugh, along with nursing faculty and academic affairs staff, works hard to assist students so that they can finish their degree programs.
“With the shortages of primary care, gerontology and behavioral health providers in South Carolina, we have heeded a call to action to increase nurse practitioners in our state. With increased students, we needed additional partnerships for the intensive clinical training required of nurse practitioner students,” Dean Jeannette Andrews said. “Jeanne Cavanaugh brings a wealth of experience and expertise to our college, and will lead efforts in coordinating clinical training sites with our partners. Having her on board is a ‘win-win’ for our students, faculty, clinical partners and the patients and families we serve.”
While moving from her 37-year-long career at Palmetto Health to the College of Nursing rather than taking traditional retirement may seem unorthodox, Cavanaugh is excited to take on the challenge of her new role. “After learning about the struggles some of our nurse practitioner students were having, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to make a positive difference on the student experience,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s been rewarding to return to the place where my passion for nursing began.”