University of Calgary

Rural nursing

learning curve

High River Med clinic

Rural nursing practicum provides broader scope


high river nursesBy Karen Cook

For the first time this spring, a small group of third-year Faculty of Nursing students with an interest in rural nursing were given an opportunity to complete their four-week consolidated practicum at the High River Hospital. These students rotated between medical and surgical units on day and evening shifts, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The community involvement in patient care is evident here and not seen in the city—family-centered care is practiced here continuously,” said Renee Deagle, adding that the whole group felt valued as team members. Kandace Pashelka agreed: “This has been an opportunity to observe and practice the full scope of nursing. Here, holistic care and the fundamentals of nursing are important; nursing care is not driven by technology.”

The program was facilitated by Norma Schock, a primary nurse with the Headwaters Community Cancer Centre situated at the hospital. Her knowledge of the community, the facility and its staff proved essential to the students’ learning experience. She also promoted student integration, synthesis and application of nursing knowledge, skills and attitudes into the care of patients.

“The benefit of offering a rural experience to these students is that it provides an opportunity to broaden their experience and recognize there is good work happening outside the city,” Schock says. “The smaller scale provides opportunity to grasp the whole in a smaller context.”

Course coordinator Pat Rosenau of the Faculty of Nursing agrees. “The High River Hospital experience supported student learning beyond my expectations and despite my initial concerns that increasing gas prices would deter students from choosing a rural setting, it appears that the benefits far outweighed this limitation. The other factor in the success of this rural initiative is the importance of having an instructor who not only has nursing and teaching expertise, but has experience and credibility in that setting and community.”

Until this spring, rural clinical experiences for nursing students were reserved for the final year of the undergraduate program.