School of Nursing students make pledge to improve compassionate health care

Students from York’s School of Nursing participated in Change Day Ontario

Students from York University’s School of Nursing in the Faculty of Health have taken a pledge to improve compassionate health care and will participate in an initiative called Change Day Ontario.

The initiative, sponsored by Health Quality Ontario and Associated Medical Services, aims to put the human connection back into health care by encouraging health-care professionals and students entering health care to make a pledge to improve care.

One of the projects York’s nursing students worked on for Change Day Ontario

Leading the students through the Change Day Ontario initiative was Claire Mallette, a faculty member in York’s School of Nursing and former director of the school.

With more demands on the health-care system and the introduction of technology in health care, patients are at times being rushed through the system, and are treated as a condition rather than as a person.

Mallette said the School of Nursing has taken up the challenge as part of its courses to impress upon students that one person can make a difference and affect change. She, along with faculty members Mavoy Bertram and Brenda Orazietti, introduced the idea as part of the curriculum in four nursing courses.

As a result, more than 500 York U nursing students were tasked with a class assignment in which they would identify an issue and present a change strategy.

“It’s all about that human touch and fostering and promoting quality compassionate care, and that each person can make a difference,” said Mallette, who was previously a co-principal investigator of a study on caring and nursing education.

“I’ve learned, we as teachers need to enable students and then get out of their way,” she said.

Students from York’s School of Nursing participated in Change Day Ontario

At the beginning of the semester, students formed “expert” groups. Each group explored and critically analyzed a current political, social, ethical or economic issue that is influencing the health-care system. Groups then created and implemented a change initiative or pledge to address the issue, along with a social media strategy.

The change initiative was to be implemented prior to Nov. 9.

York students participating in Change Day Ontario delivered in-class presentations about their projects (worth 10 per cent of their mark) on Nov. 9 and Nov. 14 on campus.

A part of one of the student presentations for Change Day Ontario

Some of the projects included: collecting cigarette butts outside of the Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building to demonstrate how prevalent smoking is on campuses; using Google Translate to aid in communication between nurses and patients who speak different languages; starting a Facebook page to raise awareness about youth homelessness; and creating petition postcards that read “Nurses suffer PTSD too” addressed to Ontario Premiere Kathleen Wynne and requesting that nurses be added to Bill-163.

“I never imagined the quality and magnitude of their ideas,” said Mallette. “It was beyond what I ever would have expected.”

Mallette will attend the Change Day Ontario Celebration Day on Friday, Nov. 17, which includes a conference where some of the work of York students will be highlighted.

She said that the students’ work on this initiative resulted in more than 100 pledges, and event organizers will follow that work and look for possibilities to expand these projects.

The Change Day Ontario initiative believes that one or a group of people can improve health care by taking actions, big or small, to collectively improve the health-care system. Individual acts of change, regardless of the size, can add up to significant improvements for Ontarians, for the profession and for the health-care system overall.