Conestoga news

February 16, 2024 2:18 PM

Review of rural nursing education by three Conestoga employees published

Two Conestoga nursing professors and a health sciences librarian teamed up on a review of the literature exploring rural clinical placements for student nurses and their findings were recently published.

The goal of the research - titled “Clinical education models in rural practice settings: A scoping review” and appearing in Nurse Education in Practice journal - was to develop a better understanding of effective clinical education models suitable for learning about rural nursing.

Clinical placements are an essential part of a nurse’s education, but very little occurs in rural and remote areas. That leaves rural residents vulnerable to inadequate health-care staffing because many graduates begin practising in the area where they studied, causing a shortage in rural areas that is likely to worsen.

“Rural communities have poor access to health-care services in general, but nursing services in particular,” said Erin Patterson, nursing professor.

Patterson conducted the review with fellow nursing professor Robyn Plunkett and librarian Dayna Goldsmith-Milne.

They wondered if more could be done around rural nursing education, and the best first step was reviewing research that had been done into what’s offered. Most schools are in urban centres and that’s often where student nurses complete their clinical placements.

“Most students do start practising in an urban setting and may choose to stay there as opposed to going back to their communities,” Patterson said. “Not only is it about providing opportunities for our students to learn, but providing opportunities for them to learn in settings where they’re needed and where they maybe would go to practice if they felt confident enough to do that right after they graduate.”

Rural nursing is very different compared to urban, requiring nurses to be able to care for a wide variety of patients. That’s why training in rural settings is essential to prepare nursing students for the work.

The review of 82 studies found a wealth of opportunity and innovation in practice models that could help inform the development of Conestoga’s new nursing degree. The college received approval from the province to launch a standalone, four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program that will welcome its first cohort this fall at the Kitchener - Doon campus.

“I’m hoping this research also informs our thinking when it comes to innovation for clinical learning opportunities for our students,” Patterson said.

They will present their findings at the national conference of the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing in May where they will have the chance to share the research with a broader audience.

Conestoga’s four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing prepares graduates to provide care that is relevant, connected and responsive to the evolving needs of the people needing care. The new bachelor’s degree has preliminary approval by the College of Nurses of Ontario, and graduates are eligible to apply for registration as a registered nurse in Ontario.