Nursing students get hands-on experience through Froedtert Scholars program

The second cohort of the 2024 Froedtert Scholars.

A clinical partnership between Marquette University and Froedtert Health is allowing student nurses to seamlessly transition into the workforce.

Launched last spring, the Froedtert Scholars program places a Froedtert nurse who serves as a preceptor and mentor to students during their clinical experiences.

In turn, students are exposed to multiple practice areas, says Dr. Madeline Schmidt, assistant dean in the College of Nursing.

“After their junior year, all students are given an externship in an area of interest. During their clinical experience, students are at different hospitals and get a variety of different patient experiences,” she explains.

In short, the partnership helps develop graduate nurses to be “practice-ready,” while reducing orientation time as they enter the workforce.

“It allows a relationship to develop between the nurse leaders and the students,” says Eric Humphrey, the senior vice president of human resources at Froedtert Health. “Students feel a lot more comfortable with the team when they stay in the same place for a longer period of time. It also allows us to show them the value of working at Froedtert.”

The first cohort of the 2023 Froedtert Scholars.

Through the Froedtert Scholars program and with her preceptor and mentor, student nurse Julia Ligdas, a senior in the College of Nursing, works as a certified nursing assistant and nurse extern on a urology, gynecology and oncology floor at Froedtert’s main campus.

“A typical mentorship from my unit starts with reporting together and talking about what we want to accomplish with each patient,” Ligdas says. “The nurse that I work with always asks if there is something specific that I want to work on. There is a lot of collaboration between the two of us, and it helps to build that trusting relationship.”

Ligdas, who works clinicals with her mentor two days every other week, says the program has boosted her confidence. “It has given me more skills practice and given me opportunities to try new skills,” she says.

Uniquely, the program stretches beyond graduation. Froedtert Scholar alumni are placed in nursing roles that align with their clinical experiences; they then receive further mentorship by future colleagues.

“This means a built-in relationship right away,” Schmidt says. “They are paired with multiple preceptors, which means they get to see different ways of doing things and different perspectives before graduation. This will reduce orientation time and allow the graduate nurse to work sooner independently after graduation.”

The Froedtert Scholars program is a win-win for future Marquette Nurses and the health care system, says Dr. Jill Guttormson, dean of the College of Nursing.

“This innovative program enhances the already transformative educational experience that Marquette nurses have been receiving for almost 90 years, while offering Froedtert Hospital a pipeline of nursing staff already familiar with its policies and protocols,” she says.