In recent days, Nursing alumni and students have come forward to make allegations about their experiences in the program.
Posters were placed in different buildings around campus describing issues with clinicals, clinical remediation days, and clinical instructors (CIs). The posters had a QR code link connecting to a Qualtrics form to report incidents under the Queen’s improper acts policy.
The claims on the posters can’t be independently verified by The Journal.
In a Nov. 1 email to first-year Nursing students obtained by The Journal, Erna Snelgrove-Clarke, vice dean (health sciences) and director of the School of Nursing, said the statements on the poster were extremely misleading and false.
According to Snelgrove-Clarke’s email, Queen’s Security Services is investigating the origin of the posters and their distribution.
The Instagram page queensunursingalum features many stories of Nursing students and alumni speaking on some issues raised by the posters.
The administrator of the Nursing Alumni account—whose identity The Journal has elected to keep anonymous—said in a statement their time as a Queen’s Nursing student resulted in their mental health plummeting. According to the administrator, this was due to how a CI treated them.
“After healing, I actively sought out other students who had similar experiences to mine to make sure they didn’t feel as ostracized and helpless as I did,” the administrator said.
“I started this account because it has been incredibly frustrating to watch the students around me be unnecessarily mistreated by the School of Nursing’s faculty and policies time and time again.”
Starting the Instagram account was the administrator’s way of forcing the School of Nursing to confront the alleged problems, they said.
They alleged the School of Nursing has not reached out, but they have received many positive responses from alumni and current students. The administrator said these people are finding validation in the page.
According to the University in a statement to The Journal, Jane Philpott, dean of the faculty of health sciences, reached out to the administrator of the account over Instagram through the @queensuhealth account on Dec. 20. The administrator did not respond.
A current student’s perspective
A second-year Nursing student, Alex*, explained his perspective on the issues raised—specifically about the posters—in an interview with The Journal.
Alex said he has noticed a reduction in classroom-based academic resources due to fewer remediation days, and believes fewer instructors being hired has created accessibility issues for Nursing students.
“The standards on punctuality and the standards on efficacy for certain tasks are wonky,” Alex said.
The scheduling of clinical remediations is one area of concern, according to Alex.
“The problem with that is that the scheduling of those clinical days is dictated entirely by the faculty,” he said.
“There’s next to no consideration for the needs of the students. If you’re going home for Christmas […] they don’t care if you need to come back early to be able to get these clinical days in.”
Punctuality is important in many Nursing courses, and Alex said he has experienced CIs using preferential treatment when granting excuses to late arrivals.
“Students have shown up just as late and based on their proximity to the CI got away with it if it wasn’t directly the course coordinator that witnessed them being late.”
The posters and the Instagram page described mental health support as an issue within the faculty. Alex said he has experienced challenges with accessing in-house supports at the School of Nursing that weren’t crisis-focused.
“[The School of Nursing’s personal counsellor] was great. She was very understanding considering the one session […] They don’t have enough coverage in terms of mental health support that aren’t crisis related. Crisis support is generalized,” Alex said.
By increasing the number of counsellors, and their availability, Alex believes seeking mental health support could be a more consistent experience for Nursing students.
Snelgrove-Clarke sent a letter to all Nursing faculty and students on Jan. 6.
In a statement to The Journal, she said the letter outlined the progress made in addressing systemic concerns in the Instagram posts while acknowledging the stories.
“We know nursing programs are challenging and that it is not an easy time to be a nursing student entering this profession. Collectively, we are mindful that nurses everywhere are feeling the acute pressures of today’s health care systems,” Snelgrove-Clarke said.
For students like Alex, concerns around availability of counsellors have hope of resolution. According to Snelgrove-Clarke, along with the current embedded counsellor, there are plans in place to hire an additional embedded mental health counsellor.
In-terms of pedagogical changes, Snelgrove-Clarke said student input is being utilized with new pilots being undertaken.
“Nursing students are actively involved on many academic committees […] With their input, we have begun phasing out our clinical learning plans and piloting new focused undergraduate learning pathways and clinical evaluations,” Snelgrove said.
She said the first pilot took place in the fall, and the trial is being expanded over the winter term.
Snelgrove-Clarke also said the Faculty of Health Sciences has implemented an EDII action plan detailing 25 goals and 127 actions coming out of seven working groups, and the Dean’s Action Table.
Since becoming director, Snelgrove said she’s committed to working with students, staff, and faculty to ensure all community members feel safe and respected.
“I encourage students to reach out to me directly with questions, concerns, or ideas. I also invite nursing students to speak to me directly at one of the Coffee with the Director sessions that I host throughout the semester,” Snelgrove-Clarke said.
“Our work in is ongoing, and we strive to reach this goal as a team.”
The Nursing Science Society (NSS) said the University has made recent improvements, but they recognize there are still areas where greater strides could be made.
“We require psychological safety in all settings, and support of all kinds—relational & financial—to learn and flourish as students from start to end,” the NSS executive said in a statement to The Journal.
“Funding directed towards human resource capital is among the issues most pertinent right now. Nursing, as a whole, is struggling. The staffing crisis severely compromises patient safety across Canada.”
Reductions in government funding are trickling down to students, according to the NSS executive, who say fewer nurses means fewer direct learning opportunities. The executive wishes to see the government invest greater amounts in nursing education.
“In the meantime, we continue to stand by our students. We hope that some past and present experiences prompt remediation and serve as stepping stones for enhanced experiences for current and future students [and] reflect our aspirations for what the program can be.”
*Name changed for anonymity
This article was updated with additional information on January 13th at 5:20 P.M.
The Journal regrets the error
Mental health, Nursing, Nursing Science Society, Queen's, Queen's Faculty of Health Sciences
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