York makes plans for a new graduate program in nursing

This spring, York University expects to offer a new master’s program in nursing. The Master of Science in Nursing (MScN) program features an innovative teaching approach that focuses on cultivating human relationships, with course material delivered mainly online. York’s new MScN program was developed in response to changing attitudes toward the practice of healthcare and an increasing demand for nursing professionals with graduate training.

Professor Beryl Pilkington, right, is the graduate program director-designate for the new program. During a recent interview, she explained the rationale for both the program and its mode of online delivery for the majority of the course content. “One of the most important features is that the majority of the curriculum will be delivered online. The online courses also include, in some cases, some classroom meetings but the majority of the course material is offered online,” said Pilkington. “In the best of all worlds, one would attend classes, but many RNs [registered nurses] work while they study. Flexibility and accessibility are important criteria for them. Existing graduate programs are less accessible for students who live a distance away. To pursue graduate studies has meant, in the past, uprooting their lives, either to relocate or rearrange their work schedules to pursue further study.”

The online MScN program allows students to study full- or part-time, and choose their own time for study. A unique summer-to-summer schedule was designed to provide students with maximum flexibility and accessibility and enables full-time students to complete their degree in as little as 14 months. Students selecting a part-time mode of study can achieve their degree in four years, or three years in an accelerated option.

Pilkington said that the program is gearing up to accept its first students in May. (The program is scheduled to commence May 2005 pending final approval from the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies.) Two short, concentrated periods of study on-campus during the summer (1-3 days each) would be followed by online discussions and assignments throughout the year. For students living in remote areas, participation in face-to-face discussions would be facilitated using video or teleconferencing technology.

The MScN program consists of three and one half full course equivalents at the graduate level, a thesis or major research project, and a concurrent, non-credit colloquium course. York’s MScN program, philosophically aligned with the human science tradition, makes a distinct departure from conventional nursing curricula. It draws on multiple theoretical perspectives on nursing that focus on human experiences and the meanings, patterns, and themes that emerge in human living. The program builds on a curriculum which sees nursing as the knowledge and practice of human caring. This philosophy is lived within all aspects of the program’s curriculum, both process and content.

Left: York’s new graduate program in nursing has been designed to be flexible and accessible for registered nurses

“The program is situated philosophically in a human science perspective, rather than a biomedical perspective. The human science approach considers the whole person, not just the person’s body, parts or symptoms. Human science is a term for knowledge development that takes into account that persons are subjects of their own lives and are not just objects of study.

“Health is not merely the absence of disease, it takes into account the person’s perspective and quality of life; it is not just biological or disease focused. The online format is going to be very interactive, maybe more so than a traditional classroom format and it uses a mode of study based in thoughtful reflection, posing questions and discussion so that students relate with one another and not just the professor,” said Pilkington.

Courses in the program include theoretical/philosophical foundations of nursing, two research courses (one each on qualitative and quantitative methods), and an advanced nursing practicum, in which students are encouraged to focus their learning in one of the following areas of faculty expertise: teaching-learning in nursing; community and global health; nursing theory/arts-informed practice; and visionary leadership.

The following beliefs form the core of the program:

  • Health and healing are unique expressions of harmony and wholeness within and between human beings and the world in which they live.
  • Human health and healing are co-created through intentional caring-healing relationships between nurses and people. All people have the capacity and right to make choices about their ways of living and learning, and their health.
  • Nursing education should focus on inquiry into the human experiences of health and healing, as well as the creative, integrative and expressive forms of caring-healing enacted in nursing practice.
  • Nurses have a professional and ethical responsibility to influence, advocate and support healthy public policy and progressive institutional practices.

Pilkington is fielding a significant number of queries about the program. She has also communicated with existing students and alumni of York’s undergraduate nursing programs. “There is a huge need and that is the reason we developed the program in the first place,” said Pilkington. “There are not enough places in existing graduate studies programs for all of the nurses seeking to pursue graduate studies. The word is out there about this new alternative and people are excited.”

For more information on the program, visit the new Master of Science in Nursing program Web site or contact Beryl Pilkington, graduate program director, Nursing at 416-736-5271, or e-mail gradnur6@yorku.ca.