As I sit at my desk after a restful period of annual leave, much of which was shrouded in rain, drizzle and fog, as well as unseasonably cold temperatures, I have to ponder why I am not lamenting the end of a long and much deserved summer break. In fact, as I left home this morning, I couldn’t help but notice a twinge of excitement – certainly something I would never share with my co-workers.
It is true – the thought of returning to work conjures up unexpected feelings of exhilaration. The only explanation for this is that the workplace to which I am returning is the Centre for Nursing Studies (CNS), which is operated by Eastern Health.
To coin an old phrase, it seems that only yesterday the three schools of nursing transitioned into the present CNS. If anyone asked me to respond without giving thought to the timeframe, I would say about 10 years ago, but certainly not close to 20!
It was with some trepidation that faculty from three diploma schools of nursing, including the St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital School of Nursing, the Salvation Army Grace General School of Nursing and the General Hospital School of Nursing, came together in 1996. I remember the talk well – how would we ever form working relationships with faculty from our “rival” schools? I remember the conversations in which we joked about which school was superior. We all knew though, that deep inside we had the same vision, and that was to make the CNS a world class institution!
Well, I am happy to report that those relationships have formed, and we stand today as one united faculty. I’m Lorna Walsh, and in the 19 years that I have been part of the CNS, I have had the privilege of working alongside passionate leaders, innovators, scholars and committed educators who all strive to produce the best possible future nurses.
I work with nursing faculty who support each other, who embrace change and who inspire me every day to do the best I can in my chosen career. With each faculty retirement, I feel the loss of years of experience, knowledge and wisdom; however, this void is quickly filled by new, young, invigorated faculty who bring with them a new perspective, a new energy and a new way of thinking!
It is sometimes their youthful outlook that helps us better understand the students of today. I have seen the contributions of senior faculty and junior faculty merge to ensure that we continuously adapt our approaches to nursing education for all students in all programs.
Oh yes, I still see robust discussions between faculty on a regular basis. It is not because we do not work well together or because we lack respect for each other, but rather because every faculty member at the CNS has something to offer – a passion for some contribution to help ensure that every student receives the best education possible.
With guarded anticipation, we opened our doors in 1996 to the first class of 120 eager and enthusiastic Bachelor of Nursing students – 120 of the best and brightest. They laughingly called themselves the “guinea pigs” as they progressed through the challenging four-year program, but we knew different.
We knew that they were being guided by years of preparation – years that blended the strengths of the three diploma programs offered over so many years with the progressive and broad-based learning philosophy of Memorial University.
One of my proudest moments is when I call the names of the graduates during their final award ceremony – the same students who, less than four years before, entered the doors of the CNS. I called their names at that time as well – during orientation to year one. I think of how during that first roll call their faces displayed bewilderment and apprehension as they sat there surrounded by strangers, each feeling as overwhelmed as his/her neighbour.
On graduation day their faces are full of pride as they stand amongst those with whom they have made lifelong friends; as they stand together with families who have seen them through four challenging years; and as they stand amongst colleagues who, just yesterday, were their faculty. I am so proud to have played a role in this remarkable transition. And, I am so proud when I see them as staff nurses and as leaders in Eastern Health and other organizations.
You will note that as a faculty member in the BN (Collaborative) Program, my reflections thus far are related to that program, but certainly the CNS is much more than that. It is currently the largest nursing school in Newfoundland and Labrador.
In addition to the BN (Collaborative) Program, it offers the Practical Nursing Program, continuing studies programs (post-basic courses) for Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), re-entry programs for RNs and LPNs, a tailored bridging and re-entry program for internationally educated nurses (IENs), and competency-based assessments of nurses in practice for the Association of Registered Nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador (ARNNL), the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador (CLPNNL) and regional health authorities as requested.
Partners, Students and Staff
The CNS International Office has worked closely with nursing schools, professional associations, community agencies and health ministries in developing countries to improve health status and strengthen health systems in order to help these countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals for Health.
Also, facilitated by the International Office, the CNS Practical Nursing Program was brokered to several sites in Jamaica. The Centre for Nursing Studies’ Research Office exists to facilitate the scholarship of research by faculty, to promote research and evidence-informed practice by nurses of Eastern Health and to encourage research partnerships between nursing education and practice. Our current enrollment is close to 750 students. We have approximately 50 full-time faculty members with a similar number of sessional faculty members at peak times.
While this alone is impressive, it is our accomplishments that are even more impressive. There have been over 1,600 graduates from the BN program – a program that has celebrated three seven-year accreditations from the Canadian Association of University Schools of Nursing!
This is the highest possible accreditation status in nursing studies, and very few schools in Canada can boast such success. The most recent accreditation was June 2015, and remarkably there was not a single recommendation for improvement! The Practical Nursing Program has seen close to 900 graduates and that program too has been granted the highest approval award of five years from the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador, three times in succession. Our Continuing Studies program boasts over 6,500 successful students since 1996.
To date, The International Office has received almost $7 million dollars from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development to complete needs assessments, technical studies, development projects and program brokering in Bolivia, Chile, Dominica, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Jamaica, Malawi, Paraguay, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Not too long ago, I was faced with continuously explaining where I worked, as well as how the CNS was related to the previous diploma schools and the university program. After long winded explanations, I would usually receive an “oh” and that was the end of the conversation. How the times have changed! Rarely do I tell anyone where I work without getting a response indicating that a family member, a friend or a coworker either graduated from, or took courses from, the “Centre.”
It is hard to believe that 2016 will mark our 20th year anniversary! While plans for the celebration are underway, we will be encouraging all of those for whom the CNS was a part of to celebrate with us. For those who have graduated from any of our programs, together with us, you can stand up and be proud that you are part of our wonderful success story.
So where do we go from here? We just recently completed our strategic plan for the next few years. Certainly we will continue to strive to prepare high quality practitioners and leaders. Certainly we will continue to promote research and other forms of scholarship. And certainly we will continue to strive for excellence. I can assure you that the big, red brick building at 100 Forest Road is truly the “Centre” for Nursing Studies! ■
This story was written by Lorna Walsh, faculty member and Year 1 and 2 Coordinator of the Bachelor of Nursing (Collaborative) Program at the Centre for Nursing Studies.