Message from the COUPN Chair
The 14th annual Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing (COUPN) Awards celebrate the dedication, innovation, passion and professionalism of the students, faculty, researchers and preceptors in Ontario’s nursing programs.
As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second year, the resilience, dedication, and passion of Ontario’s nurses and nurse educators is on display each and every day as they provide exceptional care to their patients, and selfless leadership to their teams.
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.
The awards, and the honorees, also demonstrate the important role played by Ontario’s universities in helping deliver the high-quality health care that enables Ontarians to lead healthier and longer lives.
Thank you for your support as we celebrate the accomplishments of the 2021 honorees.
Dr. Linda Johnston
See below for a description of this year’s winners and their achievements.
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Dr. Lesley Smith’s groundbreaking research into mental and physical health in the oncology nursing setting has earned her this year’s Doctoral Dissertation honour.
Her thesis, which she defended at Western University, is entitled “Exploring Mental Health, Physical Health, and Affective Commitment in Acute Care Oncology Nurses in Ontario”, and examines how leadership, workplace spirituality, and on-the-job stress affect the health of oncology nurses.
In addition to an empowering learning environment, the results of this study also point to opportunities for educators to consider holding in-services on the role of workplace spirituality in decreasing perceptions of work stress, and in turn, enhancing oncology nurses’ health and affective commitment.
Lesley’s colleagues praised her work, saying that her “positive attitude toward learning” and “firm grasp of the theoretical framework” resulted in a dissertation that makes “an effective contribution to our understanding of oncology nurses’ workplace spirituality and stress and the impact on their health and affective commitment to their work and organization.”
Jessica-Ann Goncalves is being honoured for demonstrating “exceptional leadership,” “a passion for community nursing,” and for her “courage and commitment to the student body.”
Jessica brings experience in community leadership and activism to her clinical work. With an extensive professional background as a secondary school teacher, she demonstrates a keen understanding of the intricacies involved in meeting the needs of individuals from all walks of life, including those from under-served communities.
Jessica was elected Vice-President of the Nursing Undergraduate Society in October 2019. During her tenure, she was diligent in her responsibilities representing all undergraduate students in the faculty. She also acts as a peer mentor in the University of Toronto’s Summer Mentorship Program, and assumed the role of President of the Nursing Undergraduate Society in April 2020.
As a member of the Faculty’s Executive Committee, Jessica has demonstrated “leadership ability far beyond what is expected of student leaders in raising equity issues and calling for accountability.” She has worked tirelessly to address anti-Black racism on campus, and recently worked with the Nursing Undergraduate and Graduate Nursing Student societies to launch a month-long speaker series entitled “Black Futures.”
For her committed leadership, Jessica was awarded the prestigious University of Toronto Student Leadership Award earlier this year.
This year’s Excellence in Teaching award has been jointly awarded to Drs. Faith Donald, Roger Pilon, and Mr. Sylvain Leduc in recognition of their outstanding collective role as Provincial Course Leads for the Integrated Practicum (IP) course in the Ontario Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner Program (PHCNP).
Faith Donald, Professor Emerita in the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing, Ryerson University, has been the Anglophone Course Professor lead for the final IP course of the Master’s level Ontario Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner program from 2000 until now, and has been a constant source of leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Roger Pilon of Laurentian University was the Francophone professor lead for the IP course for the past three years, including from the start of the COVID19 period into the fall before he assumed the role of Director of the School of Nursing at Laurentian University. During this time, Roger worked closely with Faith on curriculum leadership during the first part of the pandemic.
Finally, Sylvain Leduc of Laurentian University has been the Francophone course lead for the IP course through the Fall 2020 and into the Winter 2021 semesters. Like Faith and Roger, Sylvain has demonstrated outstanding leadership in this role.
Dr. Maher El-Masri, Director of the Ryerson School of Nursing, notes: “Throughout the above processes, the IP professors kept their focus on the students, their needs, the realities of COVID-19, and the importance of graduating new NPs for the healthcare system. The flexibility, diligence, and leadership of the IP course leads has been critical in enabling the PHCNP program to graduate a full cohort of qualified new NPs, in spite of the daunting hurdles that COVID-19 pandemic presented. Not only was this important for the students and the healthcare system, it also cleared the way for the next cohort of NP students to undertake their IP placements in spring and summer of 2021.”
Dr. Cleverley is described by colleagues as “an exceptional, high-achieving candidate” whose “rich and innovative research program focuses on an issue of critical importance during this pandemic: the mental health and wellbeing of children, youth, and postsecondary students.”
Youth who lose access to mental health care as they age out of child services are at particular risk for worsened outcomes – a failing that has implications for the youth themselves, their families, and the health care system. Dr. Cleverley’s research addresses how best to manage this transition from youth mental health services into community, post-secondary and adult mental health services, and connects “nursing practice and nursing research to improve the health and wellbeing of a vulnerable population in Ontario.”
Dr. Cleverley is a highly successful and productive nurse clinician-scientist. She has been a co-investigator on several peer-reviewed grants since 2004, when she collaborated with Nursing Faculty at McMaster University, Conestoga College, and Mohawk College to explore the impact of a learning strategy on attitudes of nursing students towards poverty, homelessness, and future practice.
Professor Cleverley’s research acumen has been widely recognized. She is the recipient of a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Fellowship, as well as a doctoral fellowship from the Provincial Centre for Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health at CHEO. Most recently, she received the Sigma Theta Tau Lambda Pi at Large Dorothy M. Pringle Award for Excellence in Research in recognition of her achievements in nursing research.
Melanie Frijter’s creativity, discipline, and strong leadership in clinical instruction have earned her the deep respect of colleagues and students alike. With both her outstanding work ethic and expertise, Melanie has made outstanding contributions to teaching and mentoring both peers and students in the clinical environment over the past 10 years.
She has taught in both the collaborative and compressed programs at Western University, with a teaching style that “engages students in shared knowledge, and sets expectations at a high but reasonable levels to promote critical thinking.”
She has worked diligently over the past several years to create best practice guidelines which are now used widely throughout the School of Nursing. She has also taken on a leadership role as Clinical Course Coordinator for numerous professional practice courses at Western. Throughout the pandemic, she has served as a source of strength to her students, “successfully managing anxiety from student and Clinical Instructor groups during this crisis with a calm, professional and focused approach.”
Melanie’s dedication, approachability, and fearless guidance of her students have served as a source of inspiration to colleagues and students alike, and have allowed those around her to “function at higher levels of ease, enthusiasm and achievement” in their respective roles.
Susan Chernenko is celebrated in her role as preceptor by both colleagues and students.
One of her students states: “While it is no secret that the Nurse Practitioner program at the University of Toronto is home to some of the most outstanding faculty, I immediately knew Susan was different. As a student in her class, I was never made to feel like a number, or just another student that would soon be forgotten. Despite juggling multiple roles outside the classroom, Susan always took the time to get to know each student on a deeper, more human level.”
Her students also praised Susan’s willingness to provide a “kind, attentive ear during challenging times”, as well as her tireless energy in ensuring their success.
Colleagues echo these sentiments, stating that “Susan has been a champion preceptor throughout the years” who “uniquely blends the science of nursing with the art of the profession.” Her approach to preceptorship is a compassionate one with clear intentions to make better the space in which Nurse Practitioners work, learn, and grow.
Laura Fairley is described by colleagues as “a role model for undergraduate nursing students and faculty” who “exemplifies quality compassionate care through her work with vulnerable and marginalized populations.”
As an Assistant Professor in the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, she has promoted the development of compassionate caring among undergraduate nursing students through interactive group learning activities, with a focus on developing interpersonal connections and conducting self-reflections on the teachings.
She is also a pioneer in embedding compassionate care into the simulation lab, where she has developed simulations that include patients belonging to marginalized populations, including LGBTQ2S+, people with substance use disorders, and those who are experiencing homelessness. By embedding issues of diversity and inclusion into the lab, she enables students to apply an anti-oppression framework and use inclusive language in the care that they provide.
Laura continues to practice as a Registered Nurse in palliative care, and instils values of caring, compassion, and empathy from her work in this setting into her students.
Dr. Roger Pilon, Director of the School of Nursing at Laurentian University, acknowledges the CSCGS for their excellence in “faithfully providing our francophone PHCNP students here at Laurentian University with placement opportunities for many years.”
Throughout the pandemic, CSCGS has gone above and beyond in providing multiple placement opportunities for francophone Laurentian Nursing students despite the challenges and disruptions posed by COVID-19.
The agency continues to provide nursing students with a rich primary health care experience in an interdisciplinary and interprofessional setting. As a result, students are provided with the opportunity to truly experience what it is like to be part of a community-based primary health care team.
The CSCGS has not only supported Laurentian’s Nursing program but over the years, but has also staffed three out of four of their Nurse Practitioner positions with Laurentian University francophone program Nurse Practitioner graduates.
For their collegiality, dedication to nursing education, and strong support of their local community, COUPN is pleased to honour the Centre de santé communautaire du Grand Sudbury with the Agency Recognition Award.
In a nursing education landscape greatly disrupted due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian Alliance of Nurse Educators Using Simulation (CAN-Sim) has stepped up to the plate.
The Alliance, headed up by Co-Presidents Dr. Jane Tyerman and Dr. Marian Luctkar-Flude, have partnered with the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN) to develop and disseminate five virtual simulation modules in both official languages to build capacity among graduating and new registered nurses entering the health care workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.
CAN-Sim believes that “Registered Nurses are critical to the effective delivery of health care services” and that “directed nursing education and training that is easily accessed virtually is an essential service during this health crisis. This will enable new, front-line nurses to better provide care for patients with COVID-19 while ensuring personal safety.”
For their tireless efforts in connecting nurse educators and allied health partners from across Canada and beyond to share knowledge, resources and expertise in areas of simulation research and education, COUPN is pleased to recognize CAN-Sim’s strong contributions to nursing education.