Students supporting students

Nursing students
(L-R): Nursing students Chris Bigelow, fourth year; Nicolle Rushton, second year from Camosun College; and Dehab Haile, fourth year, meet at the Bob Wright Centre to discuss the nursing mentorship project. PHOTO: UVic Photo Services

By Christine McLaren

Starting on a new campus, meeting new people, navigating the demands of a new program all pose some level of anxiety for new students. The nurse mentorship project, initiated by nursing students, has helped relieve some of the stress and made the transition easier.

“The mentorship program provides a valuable support system for students and helps create a sense of community in the school,” says Dehab Haile, a fourth-year nursing student and a 2009 mentorship representative. Mentorship representatives both coordinate the program and provide support.

Started in 2004 and fully integrated as a community placement component of the nursing program in 2007, the mentorship project extended its reach in 2009 to include partner colleges.

Nursing students come to UVic’s School of Nursing in their third year from various partner colleges around the province, and currently Camosun College and College of the Rockies are participating in the mentorship program.

“The program provides valuable opportunities to establish student connections with Camosun and our partner colleges,” says Lori Klear, admissions liaison officer and student advisor in the school.

Over 500 students are now participating in this voluntary program.
Matching of students is done through a random selection of pairings from first to fourth year. The mentor and the mentee decide how they want to establish the relationship and what level of activity they will undertake.
Chris Bigelow, fourth-year nursing student mentor, welcomed his partner by email and provided information about himself and his experiences in the school. “I shared my understanding of the program, the material we were learning and some ways of getting through it all,” says Bigelow.

Mentorship has been personally and academically rewarding for me.”
His partner Nicolle Rushton, a second-year student from Camosun, says, “It was reassuring to have someone say, ‘I’ve been through this and you can do it too.’” From time to time she re-reads the emails from her mentor. “It’s like a little bank of past encouragement to reflect on.”

“Mentorship allows for personal learning in the areas of teamwork, relationship building and sharing knowledge,” says Kara Schick Makaroff, practica coordinator in the school. “These are skills that apply directly to the field of nursing.”

Nursing students have created a bursary called “Lighting the Way for our Future Nurses” in memory of Karen McFadzean, a third-year nursing student who died in 2009. McFadzean, a 2008 mentorship representative, was committed to raising awareness about the mentorship project and helped pave the way for the program’s success.

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