Duquesne University Nursing: Online Clinical Coordinator

View all blog posts under Master of Science in Nursing | View all blog posts under Webinars

Leigh Anne Rethage, the Clinical Coordinator for online nursing students at Duquesne University speaks about her role and how she supports students in clinical site placements.

Webinar Participants: 

  • Leigh Anne Rethage, BS, BSN, RN – Clinical Coordinator for Online Programs
  • Nicole Reid – Enrollment Advisor
  • Jackson Tarpley – Enrollment Advisor
  • Sam Ammar – Enrollment Advisor


Hello everyone, thank you for joining us today with Duquesne University our online webinar. Today we’ll be discussing quite a few questions as it relates to our clinical rotations. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate as we’re going through the webinar to type those. If you look at the bottom of your screen you will see a Q&A tab just hit on the tab and type your questions in. We will be answering those questions at the end of our structured Q&A. Our webinar today we have our guests with us who is Leigh Anne.

Leigh Anne thank you so much for joining us today. Thank You Nicole. Thanks for having me. Wonderful, would you like to give a short introduction for attendees? Thank you guys for having me, I have been our clinical coordinator for online programs here at Duquesne for almost two years. I am a double graduate of Duquesne, my background is in biology I went here 2001 to 2005. I’m originally from the Philadelphia area after my undergrad I came back to our second degree program which is 12 months I am an RN in my background is in cardiology. I was always a nightshift charge nurse after doing the floor for a bunch of years I went into cardiac research, recruiting patients for clinical trials and dealing with the FDA and study coordination. Then after that I went to work for a cardiac durable medical equipment company educating their non-medical staff about the heart and closed out that role by submitting two insurance companies using my cardiac knowledge and trying to fight appeals and getting decisions overturned using my medical background.

I am absolutely obsessed with Duquesne, I’m on our Alumni Association Board here and just really passionate in getting new students on board and hopefully they love Duquesne as much as I do. I’m pretty big into technology and very organized and I feel like that helps me in my role as clinical coordinator for the programs I’m associated with.

Thank you so much Leigh Anne and thank you and we’ll be settling into the questions that we have but before that for those who are online just wanted to formally introduce myself my name is Nicole Reed I am one of the online advisors here at Duquesne University. We also have in the room this evening with myself, we have Sam, and we also have Jackson our also enrollment advisors here supporting our online students to advocate in university. So again Leigh Anne I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to speak with our prescriptive students today answering quite a few of our questions and we do get these questions you know often on the phone as we’re you know recruiting students for each term so one of the first questions we have here it says how do you assist online students?

Sure so one of the big themes here at Duquesne in our graduate and online programs is that we’re really tasking our students with professional responsibilities. When you graduate from our programs you’re going to be a professional and we’re really trying to instill that value in to our students. So students are responsible for finding preceptors on their own now that might be scary, but that’s where I come in. I am always available either online via phone or even in person to help you if you get stuck. One of the things I enjoy doing the most is helping students get aligned with preceptors based off their geographic location. So I ask a lot of questions right off the bat what’s your zip code, what major urban or rural area are you located in, and I use my tools and my resources to help give you hints or tips or tricks to find preceptors that are available in your area.

After a preceptor has been found I work really closely with you to help you complete your clinical requirements. There’s four major ones that we need to have proof of that includes: your RN license, your active CPR, your blood-borne pathogen certificate, and your HIPAA certificate. And many of those are already completed because you’re currently working nurse then I also act as the liaison between Duquesne health services. There are some set physical requirements including vaccinations and titers that need to be drawn, so I work with you and health services here on campus to get that documentation and get you signed off. That also includes a current physical showing that you’re capable of completing clinical. Next, one of the things I assist in is developing affiliation agreements; this is developing the contract with the organization that you’re going to. So whether they’re a VA site or a military base or a major hospital chain I work with Duquesne Legal and their legal to make sure everything is appropriate that it’s safe and legally okay for you to go there. So a lot of the work I do is the contracting side of things towards the end, before you’re getting ready to go to clinical I work with you to make sure you have all of their documents in order. Their ID, possibly a drug screen or state clearances and we work to gather all of those documents together to sign you off. And then after your experience we like to congratulate and reward our preceptors. I coordinate with my admin assistant and we send thank-you letters out and certificates so they can use their precepted hours to renew their licensure and there are certifications to keep their active practice going and part of the bulk of what students do when they’re in our program is logging their hours through a journaling system that I manage and I educate the students how to log their experiences and use the technology in that software.

Thank you, so let me ask you what other resources do you as the coordinator provide to help our students secure their preceptor? Sure! Another software that we’re very proud of is we have kind of like a virtual rolodex or virtual portal that once you’re a student you have access to. Its completely searchable by field, if you’re interested in emergency medicine or dermatology or neurology for some specialty hours you can search off of zip code or state and I use that to help incoming students find appropriate sites for them if they’re stuck or they’re looking for something really special. This also includes our forensic nursing program and our nursing education program, if you’re looking for a sheriff’s office or a medical examiner we’ve saved all of our previously used providers in this virtual rolodex. The other thing which I’m really proud of is because I’m kind of a link to our Alumni Association is I have access to our alumni database. So for example, we have a current student who’s from the Chicago area but we also have a lot of alumni from the Chicago area so I put students in touch so they can network even further because that graduated student has been through the same pathway as the current student and they can help each other out and finding preceptors.

Thanks and then lastly we just have a network of affiliations across western Pennsylvania and the United States we pull from some pretty large organizations, we have some pretty strong connections, so we keep those affiliations active because those sites are looking for graduates to hire in a few years. So it’s really a benefit to both parties.

Thank you, so what tips would you give to students who are trying to locate clinical sites? That’s a great question and I’ve actually learned a lot from our faculty here in regard to that question because our faculty are nurse practitioners and forensic experts themselves and they’re all nursing educators. Number one is networking, it could be as simple as reaching out to your neighbors who might be nurse practitioners or your cousin’s child’s pediatrician it never hurts to ask if they are willing to take a student or if they could ask next time their kid goes into the doctors or next time you visit your own PCP. Next I would say your current job. We hope that all of our students are professional and would just network through the NPS and DOs and MDS that they work with and inquire what opportunities lie in their own health system. Also an HR department is a really great place to start because they’re going to be the ones hiring once you graduate anyway. Lately we’ve really been having students join our local nursing and nurse-practitioner organizations. Out here in western Pennsylvania we have the Pennsylvania Nurses Association and they hold some pretty cool events in fact there is an escape room event this Friday out here in Pittsburgh that a bunch of us are going to for that exact reason to network and meet potential preceptors. Another thing that’s becoming more popular is joining Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, you can just use a few key search terms and find like Dallas Texas preceptors or Chicago area preceptors and there are organizations on Facebook that can help. Lastly we have realized over the last few years that cold calling is not effective no one really uses a phone book anymore, but you’re not just going to pick up the phone and dial a phone number you found off the internet we really encourage our students to dress up look presentable and bring your resume to actual sites and apply with the practice manager or admin assistant, schedule some time with them to speak to their providers and treat it like an interview. We see a lot more success that way.

Thank you, now the next question it is a very transparent question and we do want to cover this for our audience have students in the past had trouble finding preceptors especially in states that are not near Pennsylvania. So the question answer to that I would say is yes and no, okay the market is very saturated in certain areas including Pittsburgh, there are a lot of schools who are doing exactly what we’re doing there’s a lot of competition. So I would say yes there is trouble but there are tricks to get around that typically you want to avoid large hospital chains large universities. I’m not going to name any name names, but they’re often already affiliated with schools they’re not going to sign an agreement with a new school coming in. They may already be dealing with medical schools which are high competition they may be dealing with community colleges or PA schools, so there is a lot of competition out there. The trick is to go independent. Duquesne is very proud to serve underserved populations the unfortunate rural communities unique communities and we see a lot of success when our students reach out to these unique patient populations this includes the VA, military unique demographics and the other trick comes on the contracting side of things. Some affiliation agreements take a very long time to process students who go to school districts to do their experiences whether it’s a school health nurse or a DNP student wanting to do their practice project in a school district those often have to get approved by school boards and you could make it a whole year and have your project go to the school board and then it gets denied so those are tough situations. Also our forensic students who shadow police officers or sheriffs in town ships or towns those contracts take a prolonged amount of time as well because they have to go all the way up to the leadership of that town or city or community to get approved, but otherwise I would say we have no trouble finding preceptors except for those unique situations.

Thank you Leigh Anne, so the other question that I have for you what happens if students are not able to locate a clinical site? So this happens very rarely every semester we make it work offered on a rotating carousel model. So, let’s say a student would get pregnant or have an injury at that leaves them unable to work and unable to perform clinical you can hop off and hop back on at a later time. There are off times when the competition is less vigorous for spots in women’s health and in pediatrics. Typically we see that Pediatrics is really busy in the summer but it’s less crowded in the winter so you can hop off and then hop back on again as you find clinical placement.

The one thing I don’t really want to spend too much time talking about is payment; there are external sites out there that are preceptor hunters or headhunter. For students this can often be a cost per credit hour or a flat rate of hundreds to thousands of dollars. Duquesne takes a no payment standpoint, we do not advocate for it. If the student chooses to do so they have to sign a waiver that they understand what they’re getting into. We do not advocate for it at all and what we have found is they are often subpar placements and we often have to yank students from these unsafe unprofessional situations so I would HIGHLY advise not to take the headhunter payment route.

Thank you, then another question when should students within the program start looking for their preceptor and at what point does the clinical coordinator coordinate their contacts to help the students? So I always have really proactive students and I greatly appreciate that I actually have requests for spring of 2020 currently in my pipeline and it’s fall of 2018, so that shows you how far head students are working, especially important if you are going to be practicing clinical in a very saturated area that has a lot of graduate schools in your area. I would say about a year in advance. I had mentioned a few minutes ago that women’s and peds are very competitive they are the most difficult rotations to land. I know for women if you currently go to a certified Midwife or an OBGYN of your own it is up to you if you want to go to your own provider for your clinical. Some students find that uncomfortable but it is absolutely acceptable if you choose to go that route and when do I reach out you do have to reach out to me that goes back to our students being professional and becoming independent providers on their own. I start reaching out at about three months prior we will set a deadline for every semester we call it our drop-add date and as we get closer and closer to that drop-add date if all of our ducks are not in a row I start sending reminders.

Thank you so much. The other question I have for you is what are common questions you receive? Sure, students often ask if they can shadow or do their clinical with a physician assistant unfortunately because we are a Pennsylvania school even though you might be in Colorado we are governed by the State Board of Nursing in Pennsylvania, which does not authorize a physician assistant to mentor a nurse practitioner and these DOs, nurse practitioners, pediatric nurse practitioners, and certified nurse midwives are acceptable providers.

I get a lot of questions about vaccinations. I usually defer those to our dedicated health service nurse here on campus, she is here Monday through Friday all day. She is my immunology expert and can answer any questions on if your titers are too old or if you have to get a shot repeated or if your documentation is sufficient. Her name is Carol.

And then the other question I get a lot on students going to be really intimidated by drug screens and clearances. That is site dependent, not all placement sites have built into their affiliation agreement that they want a drug screen on students or they want a child background check or they want FBI fingerprinting. It is site dependent so I don’t know what you have to get done until you submit your request to me and then we just work together to expedite getting those things done. We have a portal that you can order drug screens and clearances through at a discounted rate so it makes it very easy for our students but there’s no reason to be intimidated or scared by those two things.

Thank you those were my top three questions that I usually get. Okay wonderful and definitely thank you for answering quite a bit of the questions that we do get while we’re having those conversations on the phone with our prospective students. Now we’ll be transitioning into our question-and-answer section and I do see and I thank everyone that’s listening in to the webinar for typing their questions you know we’re happy to receive them.  So we’ll segway into our Q&A right now and we’ll we have about three or so questions already, and Jackson can you go ahead and read the first question for us?

Sure absolutely so we have a question from Sharon, she asks are there any nights or weekend clinical hours or opportunities on nights and weekends to get hours? That is a great question in fact I have a student, he who is a nurse in a school district who is in our FNP program and he has that exact same concern there are the internet is your best that or guide to find providers that have nights and weekend hours. When you start out a lot of urgent cares have nights and weekend hours you may have to do more sessions to make up the chunk of your hours like 50 hours in your first course if you work from 4:00 to 9:00 p.m. For example every evening or they have for our windows on Saturdays and Sundays, but yes we make it work. Now I will advise that if you’re in the FNP program when you get to the last two courses they are hours heavy you will be getting 200 and 225 hours per semester it may be difficult many of our students do have to pull back from their employment and really dedicate their hours to clinical as they approach graduation. So yes in the beginning, but not so much as you approach graduation.

Thank you, we also have another question this is Sam by the way hello. We also have another question from Kathy and she would like to ask as you get closer to completing the program what kind of job placement assistance and resources are in effect and do we work together with the military’s Yellow Ribbon Program in terms of resources for forensic nurses? That is a great question and I feel like I just talked about this to one of our preceptors on the phone, when you go for your preceptorship it’s basically like a month long interview for free for the employer and for you but they are assessing you, as you are assessing them as a future place to work so really you have multiple opportunities to get your feet wet to find a place of employment. As you go through the program many of our graduates are hired directly out of graduation even before they pass their boards because they’ve been exposed to some great clinical sites. I’m not familiar with the Yellow Ribbon Program, I’d love to receive more information about that but Duquesne does have a strong veterans program which is grant funded, we’re very supportive of having our vets obtain their hours, in fact I have a current student who did his pediatric rotation in Germany as while he served and he’s back in the States for his second to last course but we have no problem obtaining affiliation agreements with sites across the United States in the VA or military bases.

Wonderful so the next question we have is from Katie and Katie asks what semester do you start a preceptorship for forensic nursing in that program? Le me pull out my binder for that, it depends on how you schedule however I see your first semester you would take historical and contemporary foundations you would do an organization and leadership course with a forensic legal system course the next semester you would do evidence-based nursing practice and a law course the following semester you would do healthcare ethics and pathophysiology and pharmacology. So that’s year one, the following year you would do your first clinical course with me it’s 50 hours, it’s called physical assessment or 528 and that is where you get a really good head-to-toe assessment on patients living patients, children, women, adults and elderly. It can be in an ED, it can be in an urgent care, it can be in an outpatient setting it can be in an occupational health location, pretty much anything goes for those 50 hours. At the same time you’re taking your advanced forensic nursing Theory course. The following semester you do clinical prevention and population-based health with your last forensic nursing course that’s your leadership and policy course, and then you close out your forensic degree with what we call 521 that’s your clinical capstone course and I help with the placements for that. It’s usually with a medical examiner, a sheriff’s office, a detective, a court liaison, a sane nurse, someone who works in a rape crisis center, or even a pediatric clinic, and that is a hundred and fifty hours and then you graduate.

Thank you we do have another question from Frank he did want to know what has been one of the common obstacles that students have faced as they get into the program as opposed to as they’re exploring those options upfront? I can’t speak for the academic side of things I don’t know how hard the studies are from the clinical side of things, things do happen we’re all human preceptors get pregnant, preceptors have a medical issue arise, you can always over book yourself with hours and sometimes I do encourage students to do that always have a back-up plan gosh forbid a preceptor goes into labor early and leaves you empty-handed and we have had that happen. It’s no one’s fault but you have to have a back-up plan so that’s what I usually advocate for.

Fantastic thank you and next question is from our desk does the Pittsburgh VA offer forensic preceptor ship? I’m sure they do, I don’t you have an affiliation with them I don’t know what opportunities they have, what kind of employees currently work in that field, if the student was interested in going there and found someone who worked in that field we could definitely make it happen. But just for example, we have sent students to medical examiners as far north as Manitoba two summers ago, so we can make it happen if you can find the provider will execute the contract.

We do have Nicole asking a question um she had asked what recommended sites and locations for nurse educators would you recommend in terms of what kind of resources do they have looking into that concentration? Sure there’s two major courses in the nurse education program the first one is where you follow a provider, which is kind of confusing you’re thinking why do I have to follow an MD or an NP, I don’t want to do this but it’s to see how they go above and beyond their everyday practice to see what you can change, what you can make better, how are they thinking as an advanced provider, so even though you’re not doing head-to-toe prescribing healing care to a patient you’re really analyzing their advanced thinking processes and then your final course is the one where you follow a faculty member. It doesn’t have to be a faculty member here at Duquesne we had a student last spring do their hours at WVU, they followed a nursing professor at WVU they can be at any university and we set up mutual affiliation agreements where we trade professors. We had a student from another university use our sim lab director as their preceptor because she was an employee here at Duquesne getting in to agree elsewhere. So that is where you follow the preceptor you help them develop their coursework for the semester, you go to class with them kind of like a student teacher would in the education setting, you do assessments, the professor might even let you teach for a little bit, so that is where you really get your feet wet and becoming a future professor.

Okay thank you, and our last question comes from Jason he wants to know what are the requirements for the residences needed on campus in all the different programs he as far from the Pittsburgh area and was wondering exactly how much time he would need to spend on campus? Sure, so for all the programs FNP forensics and nursing education, the first time you visit it’s three days we do give you the information. We have hotel partners at a discounted rate you have enough time to order your flights online and you really get green-lighted into doing a head-to-toe assessment on a patient. Our forensic students and our nursing ed students find it appropriate because you need to know the human body inside and out if you’re going to be assessing it on victims and deceased and/or teaching it to future students. So we have mock patient situations that we set up you’re doing everything from learning how to read an EKG, using an otoscope doing that advanced practitioner head-to-toe assessment. You’ll get signed off by your faculty members and once that happens you are free to start your first 50 hour rotation. If you’re in our FNP program, you come back your second year and that is where you go even more in-depth into cardio, in-depth into dermatology, you also do mock patients and you learn more about the professional side of being a nurse practitioner, so you will be ready to conclude your education. After you do those campus weeks that is also three days and again we send out the hotel information, in flight information, well in advanced and students have a really good time. A lot of snacks, a lot of eating out at the good restaurants here in Pittsburgh, a lot of students by that point have become friends, they can room together if they’re interested and I have a good time in the evening after each session lets out.

Wonderful thank you so much Leigh Anne for taking the time to answer the questions that we have today I know that this will definitely make a difference with our prospective students and even our current students that are possibly enrolled in their first year or for a semester. For everyone that’s online thank you for again for sending in your questions, you know for every four that that’s over till the end for her to respond.

Just so that you know we do have three semesters we have a spring, we have a summer, and a fall semester so you do have three opportunities to get started with us here at Duquesne. We are currently right now looking at our spring semester, but just to let you know you can apply or you can reach out to your advisers at any time and we can assist you to get started with whichever term that you’re looking at. So again Leigh Anne, I want to thank you so much for joining us today and for all our attendees that was listening to our webinar thank you so much and have a great afternoon.