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Board 31: Assessing the Impact of Embedding Nursing Students in Bioengineering Senior Design Projects: Student Perceptions of Interprofessional Team Benefits and Challenges

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Design in Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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April A. Dukes University of Pittsburgh Orcid 16x16

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April Dukes ( is the Faculty and Future Faculty Program Director for the Engineering Educational Research Center (EERC) and the Institutional Co-leader for Pitt-CIRTL (Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning) at the University of Pittsburgh. April studied at Winthrop University, earning a BS degree in Chemistry and a BA degree in Psychology in 2000. She then completed her Ph.D. in 2007 at the University of Pittsburgh, studying oxidative stress in in vitro models of Parkinson's disease. During her prior graduate and postdoctoral work in neurodegeneration, April mentored several undergraduate, graduate, and clinical researchers and developed new methods for imaging and tracking mitochondria from living zebrafish neurons.

In her work for the EERC and Pitt-CIRTL, April Dukes collaborates on educational research projects and facilitates professional development (PD) on instructional and mentoring best practices for current and future STEM faculty. As an adjunct instructor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh since 2009 and an instructor for CIRTL Network and Pitt-CIRTL local programming since 2016, April is experienced in both synchronous and asynchronous online and in-person teaching environments.

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Lucille A. Sowko University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing

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Dr. Lucille Sowko is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing who has had 10 years of experience as a nursing educator in the undergraduate baccalaureate nursing program. In addition, Dr. Sowko has had 30 years of nursing experience within the clinical setting. She currently is the primary professor for Transitions into Professional Nursing Practice didactic and clinic course. The focus of the course is related to professional nursing roles, patient care management, and leadership. She has served as a clinical instructor across all undergraduate academic levels, as a guest lecture in undergraduate medical-surgical courses, and has been actively involved in developing inter-professional education classes between nursing and the law, dental and engineering school. Dr. Sowko has been a past winner of thee Excellence in Teaching Award and the Innovations in Teaching Award at the University of Pittsburgh. She has served as faculty advisor to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement student group on main campus. She has presented in both a national and an inter-professional conference on nursing issues. Dr. Sowko is a member of Sigma Theta Tau and the American Medical Surgical Nursing Society.

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Mark Gartner University of Pittsburgh


Brandon Joseph Barber Sawnson School of Engineering University of PIttsburgh

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Brandon Barber is the Design, Innovation and Outreach Coordinator for the Swanson School of Engineering. In this role, he has worked to expand the resources and opportunities for hands-on design and engineering experiences for the student body. He has expanded the SSOE Makerspace program to include several more workspaces and increased the student’s access to valuable prototyping tools and materials. He also created the X_Projects, a co-curricular design and build program in which student teams take on internal or external clients and solve complex design/engineering problems. Brandon also co-teaches a medical product design course in the Bioengineering department. Previously, he founded a design and fabrication studio that provided clients with a wide range of solutions related to robotics, medical tools, branding and experience design.

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Renee M. Clark University of Pittsburgh

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Renee M. Clark is a research assistant professor of Industrial Engineering and Director of Assessment in the Swanson School of Engineering and the Engineering Education Research Center (EERC). She received her MS in Mechanical Engineering from Case Western and her PhD in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh while working for Delphi Automotive. Her research interests focus on the propagation and assessment of active and experiential learning in engineering education.

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Professional experiences are a cornerstone of both bioengineering and nursing undergraduate programs. Bioengineering students gain real-world experience by participating in their team-based senior-design capstone projects. Similarly, Nursing students typically complete coursework that exposes them to other professional fields as part of transitioning to professional practice. At the University of Pittsburgh, the Department of Bioengineering (BioE) incorporates a two-semester senior design course requiring teams to independently identify an unmet clinical need and subsequently formulate a solution that addresses this need. Senior Nursing students at Pittsburgh are required to complete a Transitions to Professional Practice (Transitions) didactic course that provides an opportunity to explore non-traditional areas of nursing, such as law or public policy.

Recognizing the need for both improved clinical access and more rapid clinical design feedback, the BioE and Nursing Departments at Pittsburgh developed a partnership in the fall 2018 semester in which Nursing students were embedded within BioE senior design teams. BioE design students and Nursing Transitions students were initially introduced at a networking event, at which BioE design teams presented a poster indicating areas of interest in healthcare (e.g., cardiology). In pursuit of a mutual fit, the Nursing students similarly discussed their respective interests in healthcare specialties and any unmet clinical needs they identified during their practice. Resulting interdisciplinary design teams of engineering and nursing students, then, pursued unmet needs identification towards selection of a project topic, followed ultimately by design, fabrication, and verification and validation-based evaluations of the solution. Nursing students can uniquely facilitate and provide rapid clinical feedback throughout the design process. The Nursing students also participated in didactic instruction in the regulatory and reimbursement aspects of medical product design, including participation in the development of a risk-based design history file. This approach is aligned with the World Health Organization’s call for providing interprofessional education to create “collaborative practice-ready” health care professionals.

Based on preliminary interview data collected, we anticipate that both BioE and nursing students will benefit from this partnership. Students’ initial perceptions of creating the interprofessional teams have been overwhelmingly positive. For the BioE students, the Nursing students’ clinical experience and knowledge were the most frequently declared benefits during initial student interviews. For the nursing students, working as part of a team and establishing relationships was mentioned most frequently as the key benefit. The nursing students also acknowledged the advantages of their clinical experience to the design process and valued being part of the solution. We will also assess student gains and benefits from the interprofessional education using the Interprofessional Collaborative Competency Attainment Scale (ICCAS). In addition, we plan to analyze team performance data, such as project-related scores, including comparisons to BioE design teams without Nursing student members. Literature suggests there is both a need and current opportunity to implement interprofessional education across diverse professional disciplines.

Dukes, A. A., & Sowko, L. A., & Gartner, M., & Barber, B. J., & Clark, R. M. (2019, June), Board 31: Assessing the Impact of Embedding Nursing Students in Bioengineering Senior Design Projects: Student Perceptions of Interprofessional Team Benefits and Challenges Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32321

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