What I teach: I teach entry level student nurses; four nursing courses in year one; two nursing practice courses and two theoretical courses. I also teach second entry students, theoretical nursing courses throughout their bridging year.
My educational and career background: I am a lifelong learner; the world is my educational forum. As a diploma graduate, I gravitated towards critical care. It was fast paced and very stimulating at the time. I learned a great deal about refining my ability to care for critically ill, unstable patients as well as the human anguish experienced by patients’ loved ones. I later became a nurse supervisor at Toronto General Hospital which exposed me to a myriad of situations; from assessing workload needs to problem solving untoward incidences among staff, patients and their families. I entered the inaugural BScN program for diploma RNs at McMaster University followed by a Master’s degree. After graduating I managed an outpatient mental health clinic at MUMC. As part of my clinician role I worked with graduate students and developed a passion for teaching. In 1990, I became a lecturer in the School of Nursing at McMaster University. In 1995, I developed and organized introductory workshops for faculty who were interested in learning about PBL, and consulted throughout North America and Southeast Asia. These highly successful initiatives ran every summer for 10 years.
Personal: In 2005 I developed a serious illness that required a lengthy hospitalization. This experience confirmed the pivotal role nurses play in the quality of care patients receive. Although under normal circumstances I am quite assertive and understand the system, nurses were my voice when I was most vulnerable. I was both objectified and treated with skillful empathy by nurses assigned to my care. I felt the profound impact of how care was delivered which now helps to inform how I teach my students about the many dimensions of caring.
My philosophy of teaching and learning: Students have earned their place in the classroom. Everything about this program is explicitly designed to help students gain knowledge, learn and rehearse the capabilities needed to engage as self-directed, lifelong learners in the practice setting. One of the best ways to learn in this program is to speak; try out your ideas. I set the ground work for a safe, respectful and challenging climate where students can explore the many dimensions of nursing care but the student has to be open to learning and willing to invest the required time and energy. An important component of nursing care is to “know” the person living with the illness, what the illness means to them and their expectations of the health care system. Listening and empathy informs students’ understanding, which is central to providing effective nursing care. Value “wondering”. Question the status quo; ask how things fit, why they occur, and the effect they have from different perspectives.
Advice for students: Listen carefully with an open mind and prepare for class. Sometimes students enter the program with the expectation of being told what to do ... but here we work together to develop capacity for practice. The tutor helps students nuance their understanding of a variety of relevant concepts, negates any misconceptions, and provides insight into multiple perspectives. However this will feel meaningless to a student who has not completed the foundational preparation needed for class. I have heard numerous senior students say that they finally “get it” -- the more you put into your prep, the more you get out of tutorial. Be open to constructive feedback. Successful applicants to the BScN program have earned four years in which to transform into a capable entry level nurse. Their peers and tutors owe them feedback that will promote growth. Students are free to accept or reject that feedback. However it is always useful to reflect on what triggered the feedback.