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William F. Connell School of Nursing

Meeting the Clinical Placement Challenge

profile - chris benson - spring/summer 2008

by Joshua J. Jensen

bensonWhen asked what has most impacted their nursing education, many Boston College alumnae/i point toward their clinical experiences. While classroom teaching will always be a vital part of nursing education, it is often clinical placements that help define a young nurse’s career path.

The Connell School faculty has always put significant time and effort into planning clinical placements, including recruiting top quality preceptors for BC students. To help bring our preceptor development program to the next level, the Connell School added a clinical placement specialist position this past fall.

In selecting the right person for the position, Dean Barbara Hazard knew that two attributes were critical: a strong understanding and appreciation of the clinical setting, and the ability to manage the large logistical task of both making placements and building relationships with current and potential preceptors.

Boston College found these qualities in Chris Benson. Benson has 25 years of experience as a hospital nurse, most of which was spent at Children’s Hospital in Boston. She brings the clinical and organizational drive that made her successful in her past work to a new set of challenges at Boston College.

Benson emphasizes the importance a personalized placement process that takes into account the needs of all parties. “Usually I sit down with the student and we talk about their particular interests. I also listen to the professors as to what they would like in that placement.  Given all that, I look at the entire Metro Boston area and we go out and interview the placement.

“When recruiting preceptors, we look for nurses who appreciate learning and feel like they’re going to contribute to the cause.  We look at their past history of precepting and look for evidence of both a positive experience for the agency and the students.  We look for individuals who are able to provide feedback on how our students are doing.”

Finding preceptors that meet Benson’s high standards is not a quick or easy process. “Good preceptors are a valuable resource.  They can’t be replaced easily. We try to build a partnership, offering preceptors courses here at BC and continuing education opportunities. They’re helping us and we do our best to help them better themselves on an individual level.

“Clinical agencies are getting tapped to the extreme. Our next step is learning how to work collaboratively with other schools in Boston to make this process work more smoothly. The only way to make this work for the nursing profession is some kind of cooperative effort.”

According to Benson, the reputation of the Connell School aids in her efforts. “BC is very well received; we pay special attention to our students and the agencies appreciate that. I think that BC in particular really critiques the clinical experiences for each and every student. As a BC alum, I have a new and different appreciation for the school. I like its ethics.  I think really it’s been a great experience for me and I look forward to the future and developing the whole clinical placement process.”

Are you interested in becoming a preceptor for undergraduate or graduate nursing students? For more information, call 617-552-1558 or e-mail elizabeth.oreilly.2@bc.edu.