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A group of nursing students sits around a long conference table looking at the instructor

Adelphi University’s onboarding program for graduate nursing students sets a baseline of knowledge needed to be successful in the program.

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The Equitable, Targeted and Structured (ETS) Onboarding Program at Adelphi University in New York promotes inclusive excellence for all learners, regardless of educational background, to set them up for academic excellence and success.

ETS onboarding highlights the building blocks of the nursing program—technology software, the library database and other key preparatory skills like communication, for example—at the start of the term so no student is left behind in their educational experience.

What’s the need: Professor Edmund J. Y. Pajarillo found his nursing students beginning their graduate studies often were frustrated. Whether it was feeling behind on curricular content, adjusting to graduate education after some time off school or working at a faster pace, students encountered barriers to success. The gaps in understanding also hindered Pajarillo as the instructor and his ability to teach effectively.

As a result, Pajarillo helped develop the ETS program to close gaps in preparation and establish a gradual on-ramp for learners.

How it works: Initially part of the Nursing Informatics class—one of two required courses for the incoming class—the program is now offered for a few weeks prior to the start of the first semester of study.

Currently, ETS onboarding is made up of three modules:

  • Elements of Research. Students use electronic databases to search literature for a research topic, identifying appropriate keywords to find relevant studies and articles and writing an annotated bibliography.
  • Scholarly Writing and Nursing Documentation. Students review scholarly writing best practices, including APA formatting as well as Strunk and White’s rules of usage, composition and style.
  • Academic Support Services and Resources. Students become familiar with academic support offices, including the writing and learning center, health services and counseling, and simulation laboratory. Students also learn about elements of graduate student life, such as introduction to the Graduate Student Association, specialty association membership, specialty certification, clinical placements and academic integrity.

The program is delivered on Adelphi’s learning management platform, Moodle, and students complete a graded posttest after finishing all four modules.

The impact: The pilot launched in fall 2019 and has scaled up over the past four years. For fall 2022, the program became a mandatory orientation element, with a 98 percent completion rate among nursing and informatics students.

Pajarillo completed a research study of the project following the 2019 pilot, interviewing five nursing students who completed ETS onboarding. The students pointed out that ETS onboarding was additional work on top of the curriculum, but many saw the inherent value and goals of the program, particularly in gaining knowledge of services, resources and how to navigate graduate education.

Looking ahead: After the success with the Adelphi nursing program, other institutions are replicating the program for their graduate students, including Bradley University, Texas Wesleyan University, the University of Toledo and the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Professors from each institution are working together in a consortium to share ideas and their work.

Others at Adelphi are eyeing the concept, as well. It’s being adapted for communication science and disorders, nursing, and health informatics graduate students, with a potential undergraduate version in the future.

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Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect recent changes to the onboarding modules.

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