Dedicated Education Units

The Dedicated Education Unit (DEU) utilizes staff nurses who have a desire to teach as clinical instructors and prepares them for their role through collaborative staff and faculty development activities, thus supporting the professional development of nurses.1 These clinicians work closely with students on each shift as part of their normal patient load, and may be allocated multiple students, needing to organize work using a team-nursing model to accommodate those students.2 The guiding principles of DEUs, when taken in totality, generate a sense of belonging in clinical environments for students, clinical staff, and the academics. The principles include partnerships between clinicians who are expert practitioners and academics who are expert educators and the ensuing relationships that result in a collaborative partnership.1 This collaborative learning and teaching partnership also includes the student, with all three partners developing academically and clinically.1

Benefits of a DEU:

There are many benefits for both the clinical and academic partners when a DEU is established.3 For example, when nurses at the facility become clinical instructors, benefits to the clinical partner includes increased professionalism and retention.3
The academic partners benefit, as there is consistent clinical instructors among the students and the potential for adjunct faculty appointments. Students on the unit also reap benefits and provide benefits to the clinical partner. Benefits to students include individualized instruction, mentoring, and a realistic perspective of nursing. Clinical instructors who provide education are current with medications, clinical procedures, regulations and the inner workings of the health care system. Further, students are able to network for potential future job opportunities.3

The dedicated education also benefits as a whole with a sense of ownership. Education influences practice on the unit, and practice informs education. Department nurses are able to educate the next generation of nurses and the entire unit welcomes and integrates students into the unit’s workflow and culture.

DEU Team Roles & Responsibilities

Role Responsibilities
Nurse Manager
  • Select staff nurses who become DEU Instructors and work closely with the DFC about Instructor, student, and system issues on the unit
  • Arrange for DEU Instructor staffing assignments that allow them to be present on student clinical days during the semester
DEU Faculty Coordinator (DFC)

Serves as the bridge between the OSF medical facility and the university/college at the unit level.

  • Acts as a liaison between the university/college and the DEU Instructors
  • Mentors the DEU Instructor in best teaching practices, helps the DEU Instructor to support and challenge student learning, provides continuing education for the DEU Instructor for teaching/learning, posts the student classroom topics and learning needs each week, and works with the Nursing Manager to solve problems
  • Along with the DEU Instructor evaluates student learning. Reviews student paperwork, collaborates with the DEU Instructor to address student learning needs, and assigns the clinical grade
  • Meets with the DEU Instructor frequently to discuss the DEU Instructor learning needs. Not always present on the unit, but available 24/7 by cell phone/pager should a critical incident occur
DEU Instructor

This nurse provides the expert, at the bedside teaching, for students under the supervision of the DFC, helping students to integrate theory, practice, and research while challenging the student’s clinical reasoning. DEU Instructors seek out clinical experiences for the student to integrate and support classroom learning. Nurses selected for this role have a desire to teach and are committed to mentoring, guiding, and supporting the student learners in a collaborative learning environment. This nurse usually has a BSN, but occasionally will have an associate or diploma degree in nursing. Has at least 2 years of experience and are considered clinical experts by their Nurse Managers before they are selected to be educated for the role. He or she must have completed the Preceptor education course parts 1 and 2 and will take an in-seat course provided by the college/university that will be using the DEU. This course will provide an overview of the DEU model, information regarding the student’s clinical learning expectations, available education program resources, and research-based teaching modalities.4

College Course Coordinator  

The faculty in charge of both lecture and clinical components of a clinical course

  • Responsible for class design
  • Provides the classroom discussion and oversight for course outcomes
  • Provides the syllabus to the DFC and reviews evaluations of the DEU Instructors and DFC on the unit
  • Assigns the course grade for the overall course, which is a combination of classroom and clinical grades

Students who will receive clinical instruction on the DEUs are juniors and seniors enrolled in undergraduate programs.

  • Each student will be assigned up to three (3) patients depending on location of the DEU.
  • Student to DEU Instructor ratio is 2:1 or less
  • The same DEU Instructors are responsible for the same students throughout the entire rotation


  • Edgecomb K. & Bowden, M. (2014). Introduction. In Edgecomb & Bowden (Eds.). Clinical Learning and Teaching Innovations in Nursing: Dedicated Education Units Building a Better Future. (pp.1-25). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.
  • Bail, K., Hodgson, D., Merritt, A., Gibson, J., Taylor, J., & Grealish, L. (2014). The Canberra dedicated education unit. In Edgecomb & Bowden (Eds.). Clinical Learning and Teaching Innovations in Nursing: Dedicated Education Units Building a Better Future. (pp.79-90). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.
  • University of Portland (2020). School of Nursing Dedicated Education Units. Retrieved December 29, 2020 from
  • Moscato, S.R., Nishioka, V.M. & Coe, M.T. (2013). Dedicated education unit: Implementing an innovation in replication sites. Journal of Nursing Education, 52(5), 259-267. doi:10.3928/01484834-20130328-01