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Nursing curriculum revisions bring 'concepts to life'

Teaching and Learning

By Marcia Porter

When students take their seats in Dr. Caroline Porr’s therapeutic relationships class later this month, they’ll get to meet a special visitor – Dr. Porr’s elderly mom, Laina.

For Dr. Porr, recipient of the 2017 President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching and a professor in the School of Nursing, bringing her mother to class offers students the kind of learning experience that illustrates the school’s approach to teaching and learning.

“For students who may not have had a lot of experience engaging with older adults, this will be a wonderful opportunity for them to ask questions and gain first-hand tips for establishing therapeutic rapport,” she said. “I try to bring concepts to life.”

Real-life situations

This year, the province’s three nursing schools — the School of Nursing, the Centre for Nursing Studies and the Western Regional School of Nursing — are implementing a concept-based curriculum that emphasizes experiential learning.

“We have to consider not only knowledge and psycho-motor skills, like those learned in a lab setting, but engage students in real-life scenarios and simulated activities,” said Dr. Porr. “It can’t just be about words on a screen or a classroom lecture. It has to be about active application and experience.”

Two Nursing students sit face to face talking to each other in School of Nursing classroom
Students role play in their therapeutic relations class.
Photo: Rich Blenskinsopp

It’s a major curriculum revision for the nursing schools, which are recognized for excellence in nursing education and consistently achieve the gold standard of accreditation.

‘Opportunities to think’

Dr. Porr has been working on the revision since 2011.

Most recently, she’s been working with a team of 11 faculty members who are the primary designers of the revised bachelor of nursing (collaborative) program.

“We want students to have opportunities to think, to really think about real-life, health-care situations. With each real-life case, students have to critically reason their way through to address issues and apply their knowledge,” she said.

For example, Dr. Porr’s colleague, Prof. Nicole Lewis-Power, has her students apply the knowledge and skills learned in her pediatrics class in the Cahill Nursing Simulation Room.

Three Nursing students work with their instructor as they care for a young patient in the simulation room
Nursing students practise scenarios in the Cahill Nursing Simulation Room.
Photo: Submitted

In one scenario, students act as registered nurses who are assigned to care for a child newly diagnosed with diabetes. Not only do they care for a (simulated) frightened and upset child, they also care for an anxious parent.

Integrating an Indigenous approach to learning, which includes talking circles and Indigenous knowledge and wisdom, is also part of this year’s significant revisions.

Accelerated BN option

Pending Senate approval, program revisions will also see the introduction of the bachelor of nursing (collaborative) program’s new three-year accelerated option that will begin in September 2019.

You can read more about the new option online, which will be open to students who have completed at least two years, or 60 credit hours, of an undergraduate program. This option replaces the current fast-track option.

Current fast track students will be able to complete their program, but the option is now closed. Completion of Statistics 2500, Biochemistry 1430 or Biology 3053 is no longer required for admission into the accelerated option, as these courses are part of the program plan.

“We are excited about introducing all these changes,” said Dr. Alice Gaudine, dean, School of Nursing. “They not only reflect our commitment to providing the very best, most up-to-date approaches in teaching and learning for our students, they reflect our commitment to educating the very best nurses in the country.”


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