York nursing professor, instructor receive teaching awards

York University nursing students

Two York University educators have been recognized for their excellence in nursing education and scholarship from the Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing (COUPN).

Professor Gail Mitchell and Clinical Instructor Heather Murphy have each received a COUPN Award highlighting their outstanding achievements in York’s Faculty of Health.

York University nursing students

COUPN works to provide leadership, and promote communication and coordination in the area of nursing education and scholarship in Ontario. Each year, COUPN awards individuals who have demonstrated great achievements and innovation across the nursing sector. This was the 10th year for the awards.

This year, there were 13 different awards handed out to faculty and students of nursing programs across Ontario.

“This year’s awards recognize everything from innovative e-learning platforms that track student ‘a-ha’ moments, to exemplary preceptor mentorship and rigorous clinical instruction on ethics and nurse-patient relationships,” said David Lindsay, president and CEO, Council of Ontario Universities, in a press release. “These awards demonstrate excellence from nurses, nursing students, educators, researchers and policy makers in a variety of settings.”

The awards align with National Nursing Week in Canada, May 8 to 14.

Gail Mitchell

Gail Mitchell, RN, PhD – Teaching Innovation Award
Engaging students and facilitating meaningful learning has always been a priority for Gail Mitchell. Appointed to York’s School of Nursing in 2003, she has been involved in a number of key initiatives at the university, including a curriculum development group committed to providing quality programs which help students learn critical thinking. She has also been instrumental in spearheading theatre-based approaches to knowledge dissemination, and the development of a new e-learning platform called Daagu, which makes use of such novel components as tracking student ‘a-ha’ moments/shifts in understanding, linking feelings with learning, and a ‘heat map’ that shows where activity is occurring.

Mitchell continually challenges the status quo and responds to the shifting patterns in student engagement through changing the focus from dispensing content to inspiring creative learning and growth. With the assistance of the Daagu platform, she has been highly effective in engaging and encouraging students to critically analyze, think and build on their own knowledge.

“The COUPN award is a peer recognition for excellence and scholarship. It is a very special honor to be nominated by my colleagues in the School of Nursing at York and in COUPN,” said Mitchell. “The recognition for work I have been involved with in the creation of the Daagu teaching-learning online platform is particularly rewarding.”

The creation of Daagu happened with five other York educators, a doctoral student, and technical experts and the team was supported by York’s Academic Innovation Fund and the Ontario Centres of Excellence.

“Other innovations I have been involved in also show how innovation is supported at York University,” Mitchell said. “I was the inaugural director at the York-UHN Dotsa Bitove Wellness Academy for persons living with memory loss. I have worked with multidisciplinary teams across Ontario Universities to create research-based dramas on living with dementia and on issues of patient safety. And I was involved in creating the first RN Health Coach role in Ontario. All of these innovations show how York University is having an extraordinary impact on the community and beyond.”

Heather Murphy

Heather Murphy, RN – Clinical Instructor Award
Heather Murphy is a registered nurse at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital (OSMH), and has worked in Paediatrics and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for five years. She has also worked as a clinical instructor in third-year paediatrics placements for York University.

Throughout her time at OSMH, she has mentored various senior students from a broad range of programs, and has expressed a deep enjoyment of teaching. She has been described by colleagues as having “much passion and dedication in improving the quality of teaching and in being an exceptional educator.”

Murphy rigorously upholds the College of Nurses of Ontario Standards of Professional Practice throughout her students’ placements, ensuring her students understand accountability for their actions, continuing competence, the importance of ethics, gaining and applying knowledge, establishing a nurse-client relationship and creating professional relationships. She has also developed and implemented paediatric case studies for students to research during their clinical day, aiding in ongoing learning throughout their shifts. She continues to instruct and support nursing students in reaching their highest potential.