McMaster University

McMaster University

Inaugural event gives student nurses "authentic conference experience"

By Amanda Boundris

Suzanne Brianceau, Rachel Phaneuf and Brittni Lingwood giving presentation
From left to right: Suzanne Brianceau, Rachel Phaneuf and Brittni Lingwood give their presentation on Preparing Children for Surgery Through a Standardized Program at the inaugural Capstone Conference.

The inaugural Capstone Conference, part of a nursing assignment designed to capture the scholarly work of students in their final term, was hosted Nov. 26 by the School of Nursing’s (SON) Advanced Nursing Concepts II course.

The purpose of the event, to be held biannually, is to provide fourth-year students of the McMaster Mohawk Conestoga Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) program with "an authentic conference experience," said Louela Manankil-Rankin, an assistant professor in the SON and lead organizer of the conference. 

For the assignment, students worked in groups to identify an issue in practice and design an activity to address it. They made connections from this activity to one of the curricular themes and submitted abstracts earlier in the fall. To share what they learned, they made either an oral presentation in the morning or created a poster and presented it during the afternoon session of the conference.

Jenny Wang, Catherine Kangethe, Michelle Triska and Jolene Breukelman presenting poster
From left to right: Jenny Wang, Catherine Kangethe, Michelle Triska and Jolene Breukelman present their poster on The Importance of Communication Among Nurses in Patient Care.

"This allows students to pull together all of what they know, use it to create a small activity in their place of practice that would make a difference in their practice setting, look at it through a curricular theme, and finally, disseminate it," said Manankil-Rankin, noting the conference itself is only the final piece of the overall assignment. "It exemplifies the journey of becoming a professional."

Conference organizers explained it is important that students demonstrate their ability to disseminate knowledge as part of their nursing practice. The topics students explored ranged from Smartphone Apps: Can They Improve Patient Care to A Dying Child: The Essence of Bereavement, among many others. Each one tied to one of the three curricular themes: Personhood and Caring; Context, Health and Healing; and Learning and Knowing.

"This Capstone Conference is a brilliant idea," said Catherine Tompkins, associate dean of Health Sciences and director of the SON. "It is an opportunity for you to take that stepping stone from student to practicing nurse."

Lynn Voelzing, Chair of Nursing Programs at Conestoga College, added: "A capstone is something that ties together your many milestones from over these past four years."

Jolene Breukelman agreed. The fourth-year student presented a poster with her group on The Importance of Communication Among Nurses in Patient Care. She said the Capstone project is important because "It allows us to tie all of our nursing experiences together. I think it’s important to bring everything into perspective."

Keynote speakers included Voelzing and Sandra Ireland, former chief of nursing practice for the Hamilton General Hospital.

Ireland spoke about leadership in practice, particularly in the area of human connection. She reinforced to students that their actions mean something to their patients, as she reflected on her own experience as a patient and the meaning of gestures and kindness from nurses. She encouraged the student nurses to maintain relationships with their patients that honour them as human beings.

Voelzing shared her journey from graduate to Chair. She advised the class that "Each of you needs to find a mentor. It makes a huge difference."

The next Capstone Conference will be held in March 2013.

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