Masters of nursing

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A polytechnic and a new program

Author: kendall latimer – contributor

"Nursing education is research focused and responsive to the healthcare system.  Polytechnic designation acknowledges that” – Joyce Bruce  / Matthew Barre

“Nursing education is research focused and responsive to the healthcare system. Polytechnic designation acknowledges that” – Joyce Bruce / Matthew Barre

The Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) is now officially named Saskatchewan Polytechnic (Sask Polytech). This came in with the government’s Saskatchewan Polytechnic Act, granting the official name change and subsequent new programs.

The legislation was first introduced in November 2013 to the Saskatchewan legislature.
In July 2013, Sask Polytech became a degree-granting institution in accordance with the Degree Authorization Act. This allows them to start further developing current programs and leaves the potential for new, future programs.

“I guess [SIAST] changing their name will give them more attention for a short while with the hopes of enrolling more students,” said Zoe Falkenstein, a student at Sask Polytech.
She noted the change didn’t mean much to her and that it seemed a little pointless.
Morgan Turner, also a student at Sask Polytech, gave similar words.

“The change doesn’t mean much to me. I think it definitely makes the school sound more dignified if that counts, but at the same time, it almost sounds like an IT school, not one that has a bunch of medical fields and trades,” she said.

Four hundred thousand dollars is the approximate price tag of the change, which brings up the questions of if it’s worth it, considering some of the biggest changes are in title, logo, letterhead, and signage.
“I’m outraged that that’s what they’re spending their money on. I’ll still call it SIAST. Everyone thinks it’s a stupid idea in my class,” said Jade Hodel, a student at Sask Polytech.

Currently, they serve around 26,000 students annually and grant degrees within the nursing program. Administration hopes this change will help other programs gain the same level of recognition received by the nursing faculty.

The new name isn’t the only new thing happening at Sask Polytech.
Joyce Bruce, program head of the primary care nurse practitioner program believes the change is a positive one, considering the evolution Sask Polytech.

“Nursing education is research focused and responsive to the healthcare system. Polytechnic designation acknowledges that,” she said.

“[The change is] really great for them because they’ll no longer be called the nursing division, they’ll be called the faculty of nursing instead, which I think is more professional,” said Ann-Marie Urban, assistant professor with the faculty of nursing at the U of R.

In October 2013, Sask Polytech and the U of R signed a memorandum of agreement to offer a new masters program, the collaborative nurse practitioner program (CNPP).

Extending from the baccalaureate RN practice, the CNPP program combines nursing theory with legal authority and autonomy education. It will prepare students to write an exam given by the Canadian Nursing Association to become a nurse practitioner (NP). Successful graduates will be eligible for RN NP licensure in Saskatchewan.

Aida Brenneman, an instructor with the faculty of nursing, believes a higher education is necessary to meet the public’s growing needs.

“It’s not unusual for nursing to take the leading edge,” said Brenneman, noting these changes are just the beginning for Sask Polytech’s future development. She says NPs play a crucial role in in today’s health care system where doctors can no longer do everything alone.

“There is a lot of need for NPs and this masters program allows students to further their education and specialize particularly within that field,” Brenneman said.

NPs perform advanced health assessments, perform simple procedures like mole removal, prescribe medications, and order diagnostic tests.

This means the government must start recognizing the special role NPs will take on in the province. Kim Werschler, a registered nurse in Regina, said that while she would love to take the masters program, she doesn’t believe there are NP jobs available in the province.

“I just hear what people tell me at work,” she said. “A girl I work with finished her NP a year ago and is still working as an RN in the hospital because there are no jobs. She could probably go work somewhere very rural and far away, but nothing near Regina.”

Werschler said that Saskatchewan seems behind in comparison to other provinces where NPs are used in specialized areas like pain management and anaesthesiology.

“I think [new jobs are] going to come down to doctors wanting an NP working under them and the government funding the jobs,” she said.

The potential for NP success within Saskatchewan exists, said Brenneman.

“It’s not a new role. It’s been around for eons… people need to recognize that there’s a place for that role,” she added.

Currently, there are 19 students registered in the fall semester. They are the first to take the program that will be accessible to those across the province.

Aside from a mandatory one-week residency on campus in Regina, the entire program is online. The nursing faculty often uses technology to reach students despite where they live. The residency will allow students to meet each other and instructors, and experience simulation learning.

Nursing students are familiar with different technological methods. They use simulation centres, mannequins, video cameras and control rooms. Brenneman said the curriculums were developed with the future of nursing in mind. The curriculums integrate informatics and the use of electronics to locate information.

Students use an app called Nurse Central. It has laboratory, medicinal, and diagnostic information as well as a dictionary. Students are able to look up specific information, literally at their fingertips, instead of having to search through piles of books.

“You don’t have to know everything anymore, but you have to know where to find it,” said Brenneman, with the reminder that the technology must act as a supplement not as a replacement.

The official launch celebration for the collaborative master of nursing program is planned for the end of November.

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