From art to education, nursing student finds inspiration

By Christine McLaren

Allison. Photo: © 2009 Phillip Chin Photography

Mid-career nursing student and accomplished artist Gayle Allison is convocating this November with the first group of nine students to complete UVic’s new nurse educator option in the master’s of nursing program.

Advanced practice nurse educators work to create new clinical approaches and patient care models, advise on practice guidelines or new protocols while providing support to nurses and health professionals.

In 2007 UVic’s School of Nursing and UBC piloted the Educator Pathway Project. It was developed in partnership with the two lower mainland health authorities and the BC Nurses’ Union to help prepare the nursing workforce to advance health services. This project gave birth to the school’s nurse educator option—a bridge between academia and practice.

This innovative ground-up approach was ideal for Allison, a public health nurse educator with the Fraser Health Authority. Her work includes supporting new practice initiatives, mentoring new nurses and creating opportunities for reflective learning and change.

The distance option at UVic—unique in BC and accessible nationwide—was a good fit for Allison, who lives in White Rock. “Having the privilege to work while completing my graduate degree helped support reflection on my practice, leading to new insights and new knowledge,” says Allison, whose health authority and external graduate scholarships supported education days and a “living lab” workplace.

“The development of this project in full consultation with the health authorities allowed us to develop a program of studies that supports the wide range of educational roles that nurses fulfill in our health and post-secondary systems,” says Mary Ellen Purkis, dean of the Faculty of Human and Social Development and a member of the school’s development team.

“The faculty in the school offered opportunities to see curriculum role modelled in new and innovative ways,” says Allison. “I was encouraged to explore new experiences—the results have transformed the way I think.”

Allison has found inspiration from teaching and learning from others. In one of her colourful art pieces she applied the words “living the life you want” within her painting. It seems she has found a way to do just that.

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