Nurses Aren’t Just Clinicians, by Katherine Villegas, RN

During my four years in the Kwantlen BSN program, I have had placements in various clinical areas which have enabled me to work with different populations in multiple specialities. While these learning opportunities have been invaluable, until my final preceptorship, it never really occurred to me how necessary it was for nursing schools to offer learning opportunities outside of the clinical setting. In my final semester, I was given an incredible opportunity to complete a practicum with the Association of Registered Nurses of British Columbia (ARNBC), where I learned that the clinical aspect of nursing is only one part that makes up the nursing profession.

If you were to ask a group of new nursing students, your friends, family or people in the public to draw a picture of what they thought nurses do, you would probably see something along the lines of a person at the bedside with his or her stethoscope tending to a patient, or an individual behind a stretcher or wheelchair transporting a patient. However, we know that this is a very narrow perception of what nurses do. As nursing has evolved, the role of nurses has expanded beyond the clinical setting into areas of health and nursing policy, research, administration and education.

Currently, students in most nursing schools are only given the option of requesting preceptorship placements within clinical areas, which has created little to no opportunities for students to learn or experience nursing in other domains outside of clinical practice. It’s also very clear that students’ exposure to organizations that support nursing in B.C. are quite limited, and usually consists of a one to two hour classroom PowerPoint presentation (but with lots of free pens, lanyards and pins of course!) This has led to a lack of knowledge regarding how the regulatory college, union, and professional association all support nurses and nursing.

Graduating nurses these days are expected to be much more than a clinician. We’re expected to be advocates and leaders for our patients and our healthcare system. But how can we do this to the best of our ability when we aren’t provided with opportunities to expose ourselves to settings that can help foster our skills in leadership, advocacy and policy? Many of these aspects can be difficult to teach in a classroom or clinical setting. While there is no doubt that providing nursing students with a range of placements within clinical settings will prepare us to become great clinicians, providing us with placement opportunities in organizations such as the ARNBC is equally important to ensure we gain the leadership, policy and administration skills needed. While dedicating a whole semester to this may be difficult, there are many options that schools could begin to explore such as expanding our community visits to nursing organization events like ARNBC’s Policy Forum or the BCCNA Day at the Legislature.

Throughout my internship at the ARNBC, I have been able to learn about the valuable work of a professional association, how health and nursing policy is developed, and ways to strengthen and advance the nursing profession as a whole. I attended multiple meetings and events such as the BCCNA’s 3rd Annual Day at the Legislature where I had the opportunity to network with nurses, educators and MLAs. I witnessed firsthand the power of nurses in using their voice to create positive changes in healthcare through a facilitated discussion with the Ministry of Health representatives. I felt empowered knowing that I was able to contribute to the discussions, and I was honoured to be a part of the nursing voice. I sat in on a BC Coalition of Nursing Associations meeting where I watched nurses from all disciplines (NPs, RNs, LPNs, RPNs and Nurse Educators) collaborate with one another. I learned the importance of all nurses coming together to form a strong united voice when positioning ourselves to tackle system wide issues. Last, I also attended the launch of the ARNBC’s Student and New Graduate Program, which really inspired me to become a leader to support other nursing students and new graduates who are experiencing hardships during their transition into the workforce.

My internship with the ARNBC opened my eyes to the many exciting options that we as nurses have in our careers. If we want nurses to excel in all nursing domains, we must all work collaboratively to ensure opportunities like the one I had, are available to all nursing students throughout their undergraduate education. These experiences build leadership, foster innovation, and teach us how to be collaborative, all of which are skills needed when working within the clinical setting as well. These aspects of nursing should be supported and cultivated throughout our education and training, and not thought of as something of less importance than our ability to insert an IV, perform an assessment or monitor changes in our patients. Our responsibilities as nurses go far beyond what we do at the bedside. We identify policy issues, we research and analyze the problem, and we collaborate to make changes at every level of the healthcare system.

Let’s try to the change that picture of what people think we do and what we think we do, because nurses aren’t just clinicians. We’re policy makers, administrators, researchers and educators. It’s time for all nurses to embrace our potential

ABOUT KATHERINE VILLEGAS, RN

katherineKatherine recently graduated from the BSN program from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Langley BC.  Previous to nursing, she was pursuing a career in accounting. However, she knew that she wanted a career that was fulfilling, challenging and put to use her genuine care for others in a practical way. Through her clinical placement at Lionsgate Hospital in North Vancouver at the Neurosurgical unit she realized that nursing was for her. She hopes to continue to gain experience and fulfillment to one day work towards sharing her love for nursing through teaching.

3 thoughts on “Nurses Aren’t Just Clinicians, by Katherine Villegas, RN

  1. Teri McGrath, RN (ret.), B.A., M.Ed. (U of T)

    As a retired RN and a patient volunteer I have come to know the ARNBC as a vital organization promoting our profession so I appreciate your accolades for them, I agree. But recently, as a patient, I have to disagree with your promotion of expanding student nurse curriculum to include various areas outside of the clinical area. As in all other careers, each profession recognizes the vital importance of having in depth experience of the basics. Our doctors specialize after they do the basic MD. All areas outside the clinical area are a continuum of patient needs so without the basics there is a very limited understanding of the patient experience. From my experience as a patient, I feel the curriculum today does not give the student the basics to prepare them for the real world of patient centered which is lacking today. So often our new nurses are overwhelmed because they do not have the organizational practical skills which an extensive practical curriculum would provide, enhancing the bedside care that the patient, who is in a weak, frightened and confused state, needs. We are not a living dolls, we have feelings and need a lot of hand holding which I did not get. The last thing on my mind as a patient, was my nurses leadership skills. I needed and expected empathy which is a vital aspect of care and comfort and definitely promotes healing. All the rest is extraneous but will be rewarding after there is a deep understanding of the patient experience and can only be acquired after the basics – physical, emotional and spiritual care – are internalized by the student.

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  2. Barb S

    Katherine, what an incredible opportunity you had to do part of your program as an ARNBC intern. Such an important thing to be able to try something different and new. Leadership and advocacy skills are not well taught in our current nursing programs. Amazing to read this and to hear that you had such a fabulous experience. I hope we get to hear from many more young nurses who see the value in this type of opportunity.

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