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McMaster marks 75 years of training nurses

May 17, 2021

SOURCE: Hamilton Spectator, June 15, 2021


In critical and demanding times, McMaster marks 75 years of training nurses

By Sandra Carroll

The long-running emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic has put the nursing profession out front for all to see, reminding us of the value of this work, the sacrifices it demands, and the skill, bravery and humanity required to do it well.

At no time in the past generation has more been asked of our nurses and, as always, they have answered the call. As the pandemic wears on, they continue to answer the call, day and night, every day, every month, with no certain end in sight.

Where would we be without them?

Here in Hamilton, McMaster University has educated many of the nurses who serve in our local hospitals, clinics and long-term-care facilities.

They have carried much of the heavy load of caring for critically ill patients in intensive care settings, toiled to stem the ravages of outbreaks and stepped up to keep all of us safe by administering the vaccines that once seemed like they’d never come.

Nursing was the first health sciences department at McMaster, and this year the School of Nursing is proudly marking its 75th anniversary. As vice-dean, I’d like to share some of our reasons for celebrating and to thank the community for its support.

So much has changed since 1946, both in the wider world and in health care. The McMaster School of Nursing has navigated and, in many cases, helped to lead these changes with consistency and success.

We have graduated thousands of students with bachelor of science in nursing (BScN) degrees, and hundreds with master of science and doctoral degrees in nursing.

As the pandemic has raged across the world, our BScN and Primary Healthcare Nurse Practitioner students have continued to attend classes online, trained in laboratory settings, and entered clinical practice settings alongside their preceptors, teachers, and hospital colleagues.

It has not been easy. In March 2020, at the onset of the pandemic in Canada, most learners across the range of health care professions were removed from health-care settings until they could safely return.

As the demand for care grew, it was imperative that we continue educating nurses.

Our faculty and staff quickly pivoted to online learning and began to work with our hospital partners to return all health professional learners to health care settings where they could continue their programs.

Calling on well-established relationships and traditions, these academic and clinical partners collaborated and co-ordinated their efforts, starting with the search for vital but then-scarce personal protective equipment. 

The strength of these partnerships continues to be extraordinary, and we are all motivated by the need to educate new health professionals to replenish and sustain our workforce and care delivery.

Nursing labour shortages existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic, and our current nursing workforce is being pushed to its limits. Registered nurses are the largest group of regulated health professionals in Canada, and we are preparing nurses and nurse practitioners to meet the needs of the communities we serve.

Nursing careers extend beyond hospital settings. McMaster’s School of Nursing programs produce professional nurses who are critical thinkers contributing to nursing practice, research, education, policy, and administration.

During the last 20 of its 75 years, McMaster’s tradition has included a successful BScN collaboration with Mohawk and Conestoga colleges that has become a model in the field.

We continue to focus on visionary, inclusive education, high-impact research, and sustaining a culture of optimism and respect. We are implementing our curricular response to the calls to action for schools of nursing from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Indigeneity, equity, diversity and inclusivity principles and practices are woven into the fabric of our programs.

This spring, 450 McMaster BScN students are ready to graduate with a McMaster BScN and enter clinical practice.

Let us all support them as they begin their nursing careers at this critical and demanding time, so they can contribute to safe delivery of health care to Canadians.

Our success has only been possible with the support of all our partners in the community — other educational and health care organizations and individuals and governments who have supported us. We want to thank everyone who has helped us along the way.

Sandra Carroll is vice-dean, faculty of health sciences and executive director, school of nursing, at McMaster University.

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