Advancing nursing practice

A fundamental belief in nursing education is inspiring nurses to make a difference, which is also the vision for the School of Nursing at Mount Royal.

It is this notion that recently brought Mount Royal University and Alberta Health Services (AHS) together for a daylong conference - Advancing Nursing Practice through Change, Innovation and Creativity.

Nursing conference 2012
The Advancing Nursing Practice through Change, Innovation and Creativity Conference 2012.

Leaders in nursing practice such as Pam Nordstrom, director, Mount Royal University School of Nursing, Deb Gordon, senior vice president, chief nursing officer and professional practice, Alberta Health Services, Heather Smith, CAN consultant: Expert Commission on Health Care and Jeanne Besner, CARNA past president; adjunct nursing faculty at Mount Royal, along with nursing professionals from Alberta Health Services and Mount Royal nursing faculty, students and alumni came together to better understand each group within the nursing realm, all for the advancement of nursing.

Associate Professor Genevieve Currie, chair of the department of Nursing Professional Development Committee that organized this conference explains, "The day was a great opportunity to say, 'this is what you're doing on your end and this is what we are doing on our end, now how do we work better together for the students and nursing in general.'

"The main focus of nursing education at Mount Royal is about making an impact and difference in the lives of individuals and their families while they are in our care. This involves key competencies such as critical thinking skills, problem solving and collaborative planning. We wanted AHS to understand why we teach these concepts to our students and why our curriculum is centered around them."

Participants agreed that increasing dialogue and engagement between education and practice was critical so students, graduates, nursing faculty and Registered Nurses can continue to evolve nursing education and practice.

Smith also had participants thinking about how each group could advocate together to create a united vision of nursing by working together to build bridges between education and practice .

Behind the curtain

It was the participants from the committees' first conference, which took place last year, who proposed the idea of bringing AHS to campus to get nursing education and practice leaders together.

"Participants asked if we could get AHS involved because advancing nursing isn't just about asking if education is doing their part in preparing students, but it's also the work environment that need to be considered," explains Currie.

"We have many nursing students who do practice experiences in the hospital so it's essential that we better understand what that environment is like," explains Nordstrom about seeing the practice side of things. "Graduates entering the workforce experience what is sometimes referred to as a culture clash or gap between education and practice, and the purpose of the day was to discuss that notion head-on."

With this notion of a "gap", Nordstorm, who believes the gap is more of a learning curve, addressed participants from a nursing education perspective.

Advancing Nursing Practice through Change, Innovation and Creativity
The Advancing Nursing Practice through Change, Innovation and Creativity Conference 2012.

"From my presentation, and certainly I could see from others, that this notion of a 'clash' or 'gap' might not be as big as we think or even there at all when we understand where each group is coming from," says Nordstrom.

"One cannot expect students to show up on their first day out of school and function like a 20-year nursing expert. Both groups need to prepare students for this curve and help students as they move along."

Creating confidence

MacNiel Cornez is one exceptional student who used his education to gain confidence when moving from classroom to practice.

As president of Mount Royal's Student Nursing Society, Cornez spoke to participants from a students' perspective on how his education helped him prepare to enter the workforce.

"Certain concepts taught in all of my classes all came together as a whole to really help me assess situations in the right way in practice. Even if I didn't have all the answers, my education taught me what questions to ask and where to seek help," explains Cornez.

Cornez explains that undergraduate students experience learning curves when working in nursing practice, but the confidence that comes from education continues to drive many students' willingness to learn and work through the curve.

"Normally when you assess a patient you ask all the technical questions about the surgery and their physical state, but in school we are also taught to also consider the patient's mental wellbeing," explains Cornez. "I asked her [his patient] how she was doing emotionally and that turned into a half hour discussion.

"We talked about her treatment, what her hopes were and her feelings on battling cancer - that was one of those moments where I thought 'wow, that's why we learnt about this in class,' we do things in class where we wonder why it's relevant, but then you have a moment like that in practice where you see everything you're taught come together as one and you realize it was a great thing to learn everything you did - it's really rewarding to make an impact like that."

"For us as faculty to hear our students tell us they understand what is most important in nursing practice is how they can make a difference in someone's life is such a great moment," says Currie. "A number of faculty members were moved by Mac's insightful comments regarding working to full scope of practice.

One thing that continues to stand out in Cornez's mind, which he will always hold close to him well beyond his education years, is the School of Nursing's vision: "Inspiring nurses to make a difference."

"In school they push us to always become better, so to add AHS to that conversation let's them know, we as nursing graduates, are ready for challenges and they can provide us with those challenging opportunities so we continue to learn and make a difference."

Currie adds, "We need to see ourselves as change agents wherever we are working in order to continue to advance nursing practice, now, and in the future."

- Angela S., Sept. 20, 2012