Remote Possibilities

Remote Possibilities

Registered nurse Michelle Pavloff is finding ways to improve rural health care in Saskatchewan

It was the middle of the night, and Michelle Pavloff was one of the only nurses on duty in a tiny rural hospital in Biggar, Saskatchewan. She was providing emergency nursing care to a baby struggling with a respiratory virus.

The baby would soon be whisked to a larger urban medical facility, but at that moment, it was up to Pavloff. That night in 2009 affirmed Pavloff's determination to devote her career to advocating for rural health care and the registered nurses who deliver it. Approximately 2,300 registered nurses, or RNs, work in rural and remote Saskatchewan-about 20 per cent of all RNs in the province.

"Rural nurses are so resilient, resourceful and smart," Pavloff says, noting that a rural nurse must be able to assume responsibility for whatever arises, from addressing the needs of an acute cardiac patient or a laboring mother to dealing with a furnace breakdown. Since 2010, Pavloff has been a full-time Saskatchewan Polytechnic instructor in the Saskatchewan Collaborative Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, helping to advance the training she once gained as a Saskatchewan Polytechnic School of Nursing student. She holds a master's degree in nursing from the University of Saskatchewan, where she's currently pursuing a PhD. Pavloff's academic career is shaped by the hands-on skills she gained at Sask Polytechnic. She's focused on remote and rural health care, which she believes can and must be improved.

"When I was working in Biggar, I realized there's such a discrepancy between urban and rural nursing," Pavloff says. "We had little access to resources, didn't have the code team [a specially trained medical team that provides cardiac life support]—we were it." In spring 2016, Pavloff met with Greg Ottenbreit, Saskatchewan's Minister of Rural and Remote Health. They discussed how Pavloff's work could lead to provincial policy changes that would meet industry needs and keep RNs in regions where they are needed most.

Pavloff is exploring innovative ways of making continuing education accessible through simulation training involving online programs, standardized patient actors or mannequins. "Currently there is little accessible continuing education for rural nurses to maintain their competency in mental health care," Pavloff says.

According to Pavloff, most nurses learn by doing. "Experiential learning helps nurses improve their knowledge, competence and confidence," Pavloff says. She has made it her personal goal to have the program available to all rural and remote nurses across Saskatchewan in the next five years.

A month after Pavloff's 2009 night shift in Biggar, the family brought their healthy baby in for a visit. "They said 'That's the nurse who saved your life,' and it hit me," she says. "The impact you can make is so significant."

"Experiential learning helps nurses improve theirknowledge, competence and confidence."

School of Nursing Gets Ready to Celebrate Its 50th Anniversary in 2017

2017 marks a major milestone for the Saskatchewan Polytechnic School of Nursing, a leader in nursing education for registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses, registered nurse/nurse practitioners and licensed practical nurses since 1967. The School of Nursing will mark the occasion by establishing a 50th Anniversary Trust Fund for nursing students. It will also present campus tours, keynote speakers and banquet events in Saskatoon and Regina.

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