Written by Mary Anne Beaudette, volunteer member of the Kingston Nursing Research Conference Planning Committee
The impact of nursing shortages has been especially hard on Ontario’s long-term care homes. Research by St. Lawrence College nurses may soon change that.
Jessica Hogan, a third-year Bachelor of Science - Nursing (Honours) student at the college’s Brockville campus, is part of a research team looking at the factors that could help nursing students choose gerontology as their specialization after graduation.
She presented findings of their research, “Nurturing Nursing Students in Long-Term Care: A Mixed Methods Study”, at the 2023 Kingston Nursing Research Conference on March 9.
Ms. Hogan, who previously completed a BSc in Physiology at McGill University, has been working in long-term care as a student nurse for the past three years. She did not enter nursing school with an interest in gerontology, but her first-year experience was transformational. “The myth is that nursing in long-term care is limited in scope, that you lose your skills. But it’s very complex care. You also get to work with residents holistically. You get to improve their quality of life.”
She also saw firsthand how nursing shortages affected those residents’ lives. So, she was thrilled to join a research project on the topic. As part of their study, the researchers, led by Andrea Rochon, Professor in the School of Nursing, reviewed current placement models for student nurses in long-term care in Eastern Ontario, and surveyed St. Lawrence College students’ experiences in those placements.
Their survey showed that only 20 percent of nursing students who did placements in long-term care were interested in a career in that sector after graduation. But encouragingly, a majority of students surveyed had positive perceptions of their placements in long-term care. Eighty percent of these students also said that gerontology was a complex specialization. “It was nice to see students are thinking about it,” Ms. Hogan says.
Researchers found that a key factor in enhancing students’ experiences in long-term care placements was mentorship and supervision, with 85 percent of SLC students saying they had a supportive clinical instructor, that is, a registered nurse or registered practical nurse who supports students in their learning in the clinical setting. This was also Ms. Hogan’s experience. “My clinical instructor made my experience exceptional,” she says.
Giving student nurses early and frequent exposure to Registered Nurses’ work in long-term care was also critical. “We found that in their placements, students were working as Personal Support Workers (PSWs) and didn’t get much chance to observe RN duties,” Ms. Hogan says. “I was fortunate to spend a portion of my placements with an RN and could see how complex the residents’ needs were.”
The research also showed that nursing in long-term care also offers considerable opportunities for professional growth and leadership. “Eighty-five percent of students said their ideal experience would include these opportunities, and my own knowledge of long-term care showed me that there are so many opportunities for growth,” Ms. Hogan says.
With the insights they gained, the researchers now plan to share their findings with partners in long-term care and nursing schools, and hope to develop a collaborative model for nursing student placements in long-term care.
Now completing her final months of her nursing program, Ms. Hogan says taking part in the research project has helped her set her future path. “It’s been an amazing experience, and helped me figure out, this is the avenue I want to go into. It’s exciting to see where this research goes.”