Nurses are the cornerstone of patient-centred health care in Ontario. They are the front-line professionals whose hard work and expertise are essential to the health and quality of life of all Ontarians.
From providing care at the bedside and in clinics, to leading teams, advocating for patients and families, educating the next generation of nurses, and conducting vital research, every person in the province has first-hand experience of how today’s nurses are a vital part of a health-care system that is finding new approaches to promoting good health and new ways to treat disease.
Behind the expert knowledge and dedication of every nurse are the educators with a passion for shaping future generations of nursing excellence. These are the instructors, mentors and researchers who help graduate some 4,500 new nurses in the province each year, and whose outstanding work has been celebrated in the 2019 Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing (COUPN) Awards.
“It is a pleasure, through these awards, to be able to shine a light on the outstanding achievements of this year’s recipients in teaching and student excellence, scholarship, and contributions to nursing education,” says Jennifer Medves, COUPN chair.
For an example of the dedication and innovation at the heart of today’s nursing education, consider Dr. Karen Taplay, an Associate Professor in Nursing at Brock University. Through her dedication to hands-on education, Dr. Taplay and her team constructed a simulated homeless camp on the university grounds during a cold November night, with fourth-year students playing the roles of homeless patients, to put her class through the rigours of real-life, front-line nursing practice. This is one of many other examples of creative nursing instruction that has earned Dr. Taplay the 2019 COUPN Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Among the important contributors to nursing education are the practising nurses who give back to those who will follow in their footsteps. Janese Baartman, for example, juggles her work as a hospital ICU nurse with her role as an instructor to McMaster University students, teaching several courses that are praised for bringing real-life practical application to nursing theory. Her colleagues say that through her mentorship and role modelling, she “inspires her students to grow into confident, empathetic and professional future nurses,” and her service has earned her the COUPN Clinical Instructor Award.
University nursing researchers also play a significant role in improving the lives of Ontarians. Two of this year’s winners are doing outstanding work in the care of seniors with cancer – an area of growing importance, given the pressures placed on the province’s health-care system by the rapidly aging population.
Dr. Martine Puts, Associate Professor of Nursing at the University of Toronto, has won the COUPN Scholarship into Practice Award for her impressive body of research on the value of the comprehensive geriatric assessment – an intervention that helps patients, physicians and caregivers make better decisions about cancer treatment. Her research shows how nurses play an even more valuable role in managing the complex care of elderly cancer patients.
Improving the care and quality of life of seniors with cancer is also the focus of Dr.Schroder Sattar, who is researching the risk factors for falls and how reporting them – or better still, preventing them – positively impacts their cancer treatment. Dr. Sattar, who earned her PhD at the University of Toronto, has received this year’s COUPN Award for Doctoral Dissertation.
Helping some of the most vulnerable on Toronto’s streets is all in a day’s work for Jeff Reinhart and Laura Sparrow, registered nurses at the Sherbourne Health community health clinic. Their dedicated work to guide and mentor University of Toronto nursing students in caring for LGBTQ and trans patients, as well as clients with mental-health and addictions issues, earned them the COUPN Preceptor Recognition Award.
Today’s nursing students find many ways to give back to colleagues, patients and the community – even before they join the profession. Brianna Jackson, a Western University graduate student, has devoted her time to research on youth mental health, co-founded a community mental-health project called VizAbility Kenya, and won a prestigious Canadian Institutes of Health Research Graduate Scholarship. Brianna, whom her professors say is destined to “achieve great things and be a true ambassador to the profession of nursing on a worldwide stage,” has won the COUPN Masters’ Student Award of Excellence. Meanwhile, University of Windsor student Elizabeth Dillon’s dedication as a mentor to her peers earned her praise for demonstrating “leadership and a passion for nursing far beyond her years” – as well as this year’s COUPN Excellence in Professional Nursing Practice at the Undergraduate Student Level Award.
“Behind every one of the nurses who deliver first-class patient care to Ontarians every day is another group of highly dedicated professionals – the instructors, researchers and mentors in our nursing education system,” said David Lindsay, President and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities. “The recipients of this year’s COUPN Awards demonstrate their passion and commitment to preserving the highest quality of nursing care, now and for future generations.”