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Determined to teach

Faculty of Nursing instructors earn Champion of Innovation Award

Campus and Community

By Marcia Porter

In March 2020 the Faculty of Nursing’s team of Learning Resource Centre instructors took more than their laptop computers and notebooks to work from home.

Four instructors from the Learning Research Centre in the Faculty of Nursing pose for photos recognizing their President's Award for Exemplary Employees, Champions of Innovation
From left are Rebecca Puddester, Erin Blackwood, Amanda Joy and Savannah Isaacs.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Amanda Joy, Rebecca Puddester, Erin Blackwood and Savannah Isaacs left the Faculty of Nursing with mannequins, IV poles, blood pressure cuffs and various other supplies, enough to create their own mini-skills labs in their home kitchens, living rooms and even in a child’s playroom.

A large white cat sits with a mannequin wearing blue hospital gown
Rebecca Puddester’s cat Abner and a new friend in his chair.
Photo: Submitted

The family cats were not amused, apparently.

Champion of innovation

Recipients of the inaugural President’s Award for Exemplary Employees, Champion of Innovation, the four women, all registered nurses with backgrounds in acute medical, surgical and pediatric nursing, were determined to ensure that nursing students could continue learning the essential skills needed for clinical rotations.

Hands-on, psychomotor skills, such as washing patients, taking blood pressure, inserting catheters, performing tracheotomy and tracheostomy care, are foundational, preparing students for their placements and ultimately for practice as registered nurses.

“The pandemic has truly been tough on everyone, and we’re so proud of these four who’ve shown such dedication to student learning,” said Dr. Alice Gaudine, dean of the faculty. “Nursing education remains an essential service during the pandemic, which means we must ensure that our students have the education, skills and experience they need to graduate and take their place as registered nurses in a health-care system that really needs them.”

Necessity is the mother of invention

For the sake of student learning, there was a need to innovate.

A child’s play table became the stage for a video shoot demonstrating tracheostomy care on a small mannequin.

Treadmills, even flower vases, were used to secure mannequin heads so that students could learn how to insert and care for enteral tubes. Full and empty Pepsi bottles were effective props for demonstrating the concept of percussing.

“With thousands of people dying around the world, they showed up for work.” — Dr. Sandra MacDonald

Daisy Baldwin, an instructor and PhD in nursing student, wrote of her colleagues in a letter of support: “I would describe them as heroes to our students, because without their remote home videos, and their presence in the Learning Resource Centre, students would not have met the clinical requirements to graduate. Students are not permitted to go into clinical areas without learning their clinical skills first.”

Taking part from home, students created veins out of straws and covered water bottle openings with waxed paper to practise catheterization.

Two Faculty of Nursing instructors online with a the family dog and a Learning Resource Centre mannequin
From left are Erin Blackwood, her cat, Amanda Joy and a mannequin.
Photo: Submitted

Instructors’ pets became online therapy animals, and at least one family member helped demonstrate care techniques.

“Taking supplies home and teaching students their lab skills via webcam and seeing them succeed when we returned to in-person lab was definitely a proud moment for me,” said Ms. Blackwood, who’s now a registered nurse in emergency at the Health Sciences Centre and a master of nursing student.

First to return

In spite of their best efforts, the instructors realized that their students would need to be present in the lab to ensure they were able to learn and develop the necessary competencies to practice nursing.

“It was a great day when we got everyone back on campus,” said Ms. Puddester, now a nursing PhD student. “I hope that students know we saw their struggles at this time and appreciated their understanding and willingness to make the best of things.”

Instructors and students returned with new cleaning protocols, wore masks at all times, turned hallways into one-way corridors, kept student groups small and tripled the number of lab sessions and modified teaching approaches to maintain physical distancing.

All of this took place before any vaccines were rolled out.

“They were among the first, if not the first, to return to campus,” said Dr. Sandra MacDonald, associate dean (undergraduate) in her letter of support. “They carefully considered their professional role and duty to provide care, in this case to teach nursing students how to provide care, and then consider competing obligations to their own health and the health of their families. Despite being in a pandemic, with thousands of people dying around the world, they showed up for work.”

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