My Pandemic teacher

Victoria Pickles, UVic nursing graduate
Victoria Pickles, graduate nursing student, at Broadmead Care where she works as a Registered Nurse. Credit: UVic Photos.

Master of Nursing student from UVic’s Class of 2021 gains rare experience in Population Health.

Victoria Pickles is completing her master’s degree in nursing while working with Broadmead Care, a non-profit long term care organization. For her final practicum, she worked with UVic’s School of Nursing faculty and Island Health’s Professional Practice office to plan third and fourth year undergraduate student involvement in BC’s vaccination program and COVID-19 response for the elderly.

“The experience just morphed into a best practice lesson on how to incorporate students within a mass vaccination project,” she explains, clear on the historic learning opportunity at hand. “This presented me with a great opportunity to develop my learning as an Advanced Practice Lead and Nurse Educator.”

She has long wanted to get a better idea of how provincial programs like this actually work. “How do these teams come together? How do you organize a clinic like this within a care centre like ours? And how does that planning impact our community members?”

Victoria noted how nursing faculty members encouraged their students to look at this pandemic as a teacher offering new knowledge and an opportunity to explore new thinking in population health and long term care.

Supported by faculty members Wendy Neander, lead COVID–19 practice coordinator for the school, and Anne Bruce, associate director of graduate education and Victoria’s teacher, they would meet with the Island Health representatives and review BC Centre for Disease Control clinic guidelines with a view to integrating nursing competencies into student experiences.

“Wendy worked closely with Victoria to develop an experiential learning plan tailored to Victoria’s specific learning needs based on competencies she must meet within our master’s level leadership program, as well as the needs of our working group with Island Health,” says Anne.

Nursing students also have the option of gaining practice experience through the school’s longstanding relationships with Indigenous and non-Indigenous community partners and health centres across the south island.

“We strive to find engaging, relevant, and highly collaborative learning experiences for our students that are an equally good fit for our practice partners,” Anne says.

“I believe it’s important for students to participate in these vaccination clinics” says Victoria. “They are the future of our profession. These clinics give us an opportunity to expand our knowledge in a highly fluid situation while working with the general public. This is first hand experience in population health.”

Victoria Pickles with community member Murray Edwards and her dog, Garth, a welcome visitor at Broadmead Care. Credit: UVic Photos.

Victoria earned a BSN at McGill University, “a degree you can use!” she asserts having worked in the renal unit at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver as well as Charing Cross Campus in London, England. “That was a phenomenal experience, being introduced to another health system where nurses are also very well trained. I worked hard and learned a lot.”

She brought that knowledge back with her to BC and applies it now in her work within the long-term care sector, which she sees as an integral component to our health care system and our communities province-wide. Registered Nurses with advanced preparation have key roles to play in developing and supporting high quality systems of long term care especially now as the Baby Boomer generation enters its senior years.

“Nurses have a role in advocating for those living in care, helping the public to better understand what nurses can do. I think we need to honour our patients and ensure they receive the most wonderful care possible.”  

There is a doctoral degree within her sights, Victoria says, but for now she plans to continue in her current leadership role as a master’s prepared nurse.

Having observed so many people struggle during this pandemic, Victoria says she was more deeply impacted by witnessing people pulling together to help resolve this major health challenge. The greatest take-away, she says, was seeing how much relationships matter in this work.

“Health care professionals, nursing educators, students and care providers – working well together and supporting one another is how we achieve the best outcome.”