Each year, the Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing (COUPN) recognizes some of Ontario’s most outstanding nursing educators and students, highlighting their excellence in patient care and their critical role in strengthening the province’s health-care system.
For the second consecutive year, Brock University faculty are among the seven recipients to receive awards for excellence in nursing education and scholarship.
COUPN announced Friday, May 15 that Department of Nursing Professor Lynn McCleary received the Excellence in Teaching Award 2020 and Stamatina Romas the Clinical Instructor Award 2020.
McCleary follows in the footsteps of Nursing Associate Professor Karyn Taplay, who was COUPN’s Excellence in Teaching Award 2019 recipient.
“This award is such a big honour because we are recognized by our peers,” says McCleary. “I am surrounded by really excellent educators, and knowing a colleague took the time to nominate me is so special.”
Reflecting on her 15 years of teaching at Brock, McCleary values the support and training she has received from the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI).
“It takes a lot of time, effort and sometimes heartache to do your best,” she says. “When I first began CPI’s training for facilitators for instructional skills workshop, I was paired with Giulia Forsyth. We learned together and I have come to appreciate advice and support from her and the whole CPI team.”
Relationships are important to McCleary, and as a mental health nurse, this extends to getting to know her students and making learning meaningful for them.
“Mental health courses are my passion and a personal mission,” she says. “I want our graduates to be open and accepting of people with addictions and mental health issues. Through Brock Nursing students and graduates, we see the impact of our teaching. Our department is doing everything we can to have excellent nurses which positively impacts the health care system overall.”
A major component of the Nursing program is student learning in clinical settings.
Clinical Instructor Stamatina Romas, whose speciality is mental health and acute medicine/cardiology – telemetry, has been on the front-line, providing hands-on nursing education at Brock for more than 10 years. She says she has “the best job.”
Her role requires her to constantly be in a collaborative relationship with the staff in the cardiac unit of the St. Catharines General Hospital while ensuring Nursing students integrate well into the clinical site.
“I feel it is critical for a nursing clinical instructor to really solidify the partnership he or she has with their unit because we are guests from the moment we step onto their floor,” says Romas. “These co-reciprocal learning relationships occur between student, instructor, patient and hospital staff.”
Acknowledging that each student has a different learning style, Romas takes an individualized approach to training and assessment to ensure successful knowledge and skills develop that meet the requirements of the clinical practicum syllabus.
“I teach our students in clinical all day long and this gives me the opportunity to really get to know them,” Romas says. “For example, in second year we are at the hospital, on shift, providing nursing care for patients from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., with no more than seven students at a time. This means for 12 hours straight we provide all aspects of care, medications and treatment for up to 14 patients. It is important this is a safe learning environment where students thrive and provide empathic, competent and safe care to their clients.”
Romas attributes the department’s collaborative culture to being a key factor in the success of its students, adding that the leadership of Nursing Clinical-Practicum Coordinator Sandra Micsinszki and mentorship from Nursing Assistant Professor Sheila O’Keefe-McCarthy have helped her excel.
Another award-winning approach to student learning within Brock Nursing is the use of simulation-based teaching. Associate Professor Karyn Taplay, recipient of COUPN’s Excellence in Teaching Award 2019, is known for creating memorable hands-on learning experiences for her students.
Prior to the start of her teaching career at Brock in 2006, much of Taplay’s clinical nursing experience was focused primarily on obstetrics, labour and delivery, nursery, and postpartum. By incorporating her clinical experience into her teaching, Taplay began designing patient home care scenarios for students in 2012, and birthing simulations in 2015. She has since received several accolades for simulation integration into curriculum design.
“Brock is fortunate to have simulation equipment with different levels of realism,” says Taplay. “Part of our mandate of practice is to be self-reflective. Providing Nursing students with the opportunity to work through a variety of safe, simulated experiences allows them to build skills and confidence.”
Taplay points out that Brock’s creative, student-centred approaches to teaching is helping it to stand out among the university programs in Ontario.
“I know many of the high-quality educators in nursing and it was very humbling to be recognized among the outstanding in Ontario for 2019,” Taplay says. “I am extremely honoured and happy for my colleagues Lynn and Stamatina for the much-deserved recognition they have received.”