Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Nursing students teach the teachers

Fourth-year nursing students deliver pandemic presentation to over 480 east-central Saskatchewan school division teachers and staff

December 17, 2020 – Last March, the physical closure of Saskatchewan Polytechnic and University of Regina campuses prevented fourth-year students in the Saskatchewan Collaborative Bachelor of Science in Nursing (SCBScN) program from finishing their community practicums. Kim Thiessen, RN and SCBScN faculty member, immediately began exploring ways to navigate community placements so students could continue moving forward in their program.

“As part of the SCBScN, students must complete 168 clinical hours in community settings, such as assisted living residences, youth programs or schools. It’s hands-on learning that gives students a better understanding of population health and community well-being,” Thiessen says.

With COVID-19, Thiessen and her team had to come up with other opportunities for students to complete their clinical hours. Serendipity played a role in what came next. Over the summer, Thiessen connected with Joan Pratchler, a colleague and Sask Polytech nursing alumnus who had started a consulting business to help schools with re-opening protocols during the pandemic.

“We realized there was an amazing opportunity to provide a community nursing experience to our students and meaningful support to the school system,” Thiessen says.

“I saw a great need for community nursing support in schools,” Pratchler says. “School communities have many stakeholders: board members, administrative staff, teachers, students, intensive needs students, support staff, and parents, guardians, families. There was a lot of anxiety about reopening because they didn’t know how to mitigate the COVID-19 virus. There would need to be a lot of client education about a lot of things—disinfectants and how to use them, when and how to clean personal protective equipment (PPE), what it is, how to use it, where to buy it, how it works with children and so on.”

Pratchler, Thiessen and Quintin Robertson, director of Education for Good Spirit School Division (GSSD) worked out a plan to engage SCBScN student nurses with GSSD staff to provide the education required for reopening.

Robertson says, “Kim and her students were fantastic. Kim focused on finding solutions and helped keep our stress level down.”

With the SCBScN program, Thiessen and her team helped guide nursing students as they conducted research and created PowerPoint presentations. The presentation shared information on the physical issues that patients often experience from COVID-19, as well as how the virus is spread and how to stay safe. Information and tips on how to deal with stress and care for your mental health during the pandemic was also shared. Thiessen and partners reviewed the material to ensure it reflected the latest evidence-based information. 

“The nursing students delivered accurate and relevant information to over 480 staff,” Pratchler says. “SCBScN students and faculty stepped up to the challenge, I couldn't have been more proud.” 

Robertson agrees. “The nursing students did an absolutely fantastic job,” he says. “They were poised, professional and knowledgeable. And the feedback from teachers and staff was glowing.”

“The response from teachers and staff was really favourable,” Thiessen says. “Teachers appreciated the information our student nurses provided and how professional they were in the presentations. The information that was shared helped minimize some of their concerns,” Thiessen says. “Our student nurses aren’t educators, they’re nurses, so receiving this positive feedback was a real feather in their caps.”

Overall, Thiessen says the collaboration resulted in a very meaningful learning experience. “Our students learned firsthand what community collaboration looks like and were able to experience the impact that health promotion education can have during a pandemic.”

Learn more about the Saskatchewan Collaborative Bachelor of Science in Nursing (SCBScN) program offered jointly by Saskatchewan Polytechnic and the University of Regina at