WINTER 2013 | VOL 6 ISSUE 1 | ULETHBRIDGE.CA
snapshot UNIVERSITY OF LETHBRIDGE FACULTY OF HEALTH SCIENCES
Celebrating the Past, Embracing the Future New strategic plan guides the future of the Faculty of Health Sciences Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States, once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” It’s advice that the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge has taken to heart, embarking on a bold journey of growth and transformation. In late 2012, the Faculty completed its Strategic Plan, an ambitious framework that will guide its development during the next three years. But just because the detail-rich document looks ahead to 2015 doesn’t mean that it overlooks the Faculty’s past accomplishments. Indeed, the Faculty has had a long history in southern Alberta, tracing its roots back to 1910 when the Galt School of Nursing was established. Seventy years later, the U of L introduced a post-basic Bachelor of Nursing program, and in the ensuing years, the School of Health Sciences’ strong commitment to providing a high-quality health education has grown in many areas. Today, the Faculty of Health Sciences, which was formally founded in 2009, houses two distinct nursing programs, as well as a Bachelor of Health Sciences program with two majors – public health is the first of its kind in the province while addictions counselling, which was launched in 1998, is unique in Canada. Additionally, the Faculty offers a Master of Science program and is strengthening its research enterprise in several areas. Those societally relevant issues include addictions and mental health, global health and sustainability, rural and remote health, nurse education, health and the environment and Aboriginal health.
Clearly, says Dean Dr. Christopher Hosgood, change has become a constant in the Faculty. And with even more growth projected for the future, professors and administrators wanted to strategize how those changes would be brought to life. The goal: to help the Faculty move forward and simultaneously honour its dedication to providing a real-world education and a caring, dynamic and diverse learning environment – one that supports students’ and educators’ success, nurtures the broader community and encourages collaboration, inclusion, transformation and a lively exchange of knowledge. The process began with a Faculty-wide retreat in December 2011. “We wanted to bring people together to align our academic goals with the ideals of the Faculty, and create an independent vision for the future,” says Hosgood. “For consistency, we also wanted to align the Faculty with the University’s overall strategic plan.” During the retreat, the discussions were led by Dr. A.R. Elangovan, a faculty member from the University of Victoria. An expert on life callings, Elangovan helped faculty and staff members answer big-picture questions about the Faculty’s values, priorities, purpose and the areas in which it should assume a leadership position. The group also brainstormed specific ways to achieve the Faculty’s key initiatives. From there, a working group started compiling the Strategic Plan in January 2012. Feedback was sought from across the Faculty, and by the time the document was finalized at the end of the year, all 65 faculty and staff
members had helped determine the Faculty’s strategic direction. Consisting of 10 key priorities, the Strategic Plan focuses on broadening the Faculty’s interactions with the community, developing new programs and expanding research initiatives. The latter, for example, includes appointing research Chairs in Aboriginal health and wellness, and alternative and complementary health, respectively. From a program perspective, addictions counselling intends to enhance academic support for at-risk learners, and increase the program’s partnerships with First Nations, Métis and Inuit representatives. Meanwhile in nursing, there are plans to increase the research capacity of faculty and students, and to review the curricula to ensure that the Faculty is continuing to deliver dynamic and high-quality nursing programs. In public health, the goal is to expand experiential learning for students and offer them opportunities to engage with the community. Finally, in graduate studies, the first cohort in the Master of Education program in counselling psychology, specializing in addictions and mental health, began its studies in 2012 and the aim is to make the initiative permanent down the road. There are also plans to implement a Master of Nursing and a PhD program focusing on population studies and health. “Ultimately, the Strategic Plan encapsulates who we are and gives direction to what we want to do,” says Hosgood, noting that the real meaning of the plan will come to life in the coming years.
“We wanted to bring people together to align our academic goals with the ideals of the Faculty, and create an independent vision for the future.” Dr. Christopher Hosgood
A Year in Review
Dear friends of the Faculty of Health Sciences, The past year has been extremely rewarding as we have completed our Faculty of Health Sciences Strategic Plan. Our goal during the planning process was to create a document that articulates our vision, our mission and – most importantly – our core values. We identified ourselves as an ACTIVe Faculty, in that we are accountable, collaborative, transformational, inclusive and vibrant! Collectively we affirmed our commitment to support our students and to our colleagues. We will maintain our commitment to the undergraduate student experience while developing graduate programming and research capacity. Our collaborative venture with the Faculty of Education to deliver a Master of Education program in counselling psychology, specializing in addictions and mental health, is well under way with the first cohort nearing the end of their first year of studies; we have completed development of an innovative Master of Nursing, and now await program
approval; we continue to collaborate with the Faculty of Management on creating a Master of Health Services Management; and we have nearly completed development of a proposed PhD in population studies and health in collaboration with the Faculty of Arts & Science. In support of our goal of expanding research capacity we are currently recruiting an Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions Chair in Aboriginal Health and Wellness; this position will support translational research and complement the implementation of a major in Aboriginal health. Last year I noted the exciting news of our first endowed position, the Emmy Droog Professorship in Complementary and Alternative Health; we remain on schedule to recruit for this position in 2014. In the meantime we have created a series of Emmy Droog Research Awards, with the goal of developing research capacity in the area of complementary and alternative health.
Finally, we have also been working collaboratively with other post-secondary institutions and the practice community to develop a new post-diploma program in therapeutic recreation. We are currently developing a business plan in support of this much anticipated laddering opportunity for students. I hope you enjoy this edition of Snapshot as we share with you a glimpse into our efforts to provide a caring, dynamic and diverse learning environment that develops principled health professionals.
Christopher P. Hosgood, PhD Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences University of Lethbridge
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Program Updates Addictions Counselling
The addictions counselling program would not be successful in its education endeavours without the excellent working relationship it has developed with professional practice partners who provide student placement opportunities on a local, national and international basis. This past fall, the addictions counselling program placed 41 senior internship students at numerous sites across Canada and abroad. More than 30 students were placed in Alberta, six nationally and four internationally in Scotland and Australia. Just over half of the placements were at sites offering counselling, treatment and/ or support services specific to addictions issues. The remaining students were placed at sites focused on a variety of issues such as homelessness, corrections, forensics, trauma, at-risk youth, family and seniors. Feedback from site supervisors reflects that our students are knowledgeable and skilled regarding addictions and counselling issues and are well prepared for their internship placements. Consistent with this feedback, we are happy to report a number of students were offered full-time jobs at their agency site upon internship completion. The program is also excited to welcome – in collaboration with the Faculty of Education – a new cohort of students, enrolled in the Master of Education program in counselling psychology, specializing in addictions and mental health. This provides an exciting opportunity for our bachelor degree program graduates to pursue the graduate courses they need for licensing as psychologists in Alberta.
The public health program – now in its fourth year – continues to grow with 14 graduates and 61 registered students as of this past fall. New courses in Aboriginal health, global health governance, community development and social justice were offered this year, and courses in health promotion project design and healthy public policy will be offered in 2013. In 2012, we were excited to begin offering a combined degree program in collaboration with the Faculty of Management and a co-op program coordinated by the Faculty of Arts & Science. Students registered in the combined degree will complete both an undergraduate degree in health sciences with a major in public health and an undergraduate degree in management in five years. The co-op program provides public health students opportunities for paid work experience as part of their degree. The public health program is pleased to share that in 2012 more than two-thirds of graduates found employment within six months of completing their program. A number of these students received job offers directly from their practicum placements. Graduates are now employed in several areas of public health including: infection control, health promotion and evaluation services, as well as within a number of not-for-profit organizations. The ever-evolving public health degree remains a unique and exciting program within Alberta and Canada.
Over the past year the nursing program has worked on many initiatives – involving faculty, staff, students, alumni and our practice partners – with the goal of strengthening our programs. These endeavours include: reinstating the Nursing Education in Southwestern Alberta Bachelor of Nursing Programs Advisory Committee, updating our current curriculum and aligning our strategic plan with our respective institutional strategic goals. In 2012 the nursing program also supported student-focused initiatives in many ways. This past fall students received funding to facilitate their attendance at the Canadian Nursing Students’ Association Western/Prairie Regional Conference held in Vancouver, B.C., bringing together nursing students from all over Canada. In January 2013, additional sponsorship was given to students wanting to attend the National Annual Conference in Halifax, N.S. We recognize and applaud our students for their interest in student governance matters, and are pleased the University of Lethbridge student representation continues to be one of the highest student attendance rates in the country. The nursing program looks forward to what 2013 has to bring as we continuously work on developing new opportunities for our students and strive to facilitate a dynamic learning environment.
This fall graduate studies in the Faculty of Health Sciences welcomed eight new Master of Science students. These students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, which is reflected in the wide range of proposed research topic areas. Several students have applied for Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) grants while several others have received prestigious awards and/or scholarships. A few of our graduates from last year’s class are currently undertaking doctoral studies. In partner with the Faculty of Education, 14 students began the Master of Education program in counselling psychology, specializing in addictions and mental health in July 2012. Thus far these committed students have experienced tremendous growth and transformation and developed considerable insight into the clinical therapist role. New graduate program initiatives are underway within the Faculty of Health Sciences. With support from the School of Graduate Studies, a proposal for a Master of Nursing has been submitted. The first cohort of students could be admitted as early as the fall of 2014. The Faculty of Health Sciences also continues to work with other Faculties within the University to help gain internal and external approval for a proposed PhD in population studies and health. It continues to be an exciting time for the graduate studies program in the Faculty of Health Sciences. We look forward to continuing to work with our students and collaborating with colleagues and community partners.
The Addictions Counselling Lab
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Looking forward, SSASHS is very excited by the progress that has been made towards the new major in Aboriginal health. Currently awaiting external approvals, the new major could be offered as early as in the fall of 2014. Alongside the prospects of the new major we also eagerly await the Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions Chair in Aboriginal Health and Wellness. It is indeed an exciting time for SSASHS and students. We look forward to what the next year will bring.
The Faculty of Health Sciences
Support Services for Aboriginal Students in Health Sciences The Faculty of Health Sciences is continuously developing and expanding its unique support services for First Nations, Métis and Inuit students. Support Services for Aboriginal Students in Health Sciences (SSASHS) remains devoted to helping students with the transition from home and family life to university through mentorship programs with elders and Aboriginal health-care professionals, as well as tutoring and counselling support. In fall of 2012 more than 50 Aboriginal students enrolled in health sciences programs
and continued growth is anticipated. This new generation of health-care professionals will positively influence effective and efficient health-care delivery and increase the overall health status of our First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. SSASHS plans to continue to provide social networking opportunities, as well as assistance with scholarship and bursary applications in 2013. Students are also encouraged to attend weekly writing circles if they would like help with writing and research skills.
is proud to provide First Nations, Métis and Inuit students with an enriched educational experience through access to elders and mentors.
A New Perspective Addictions counselling alumna sees things in a new light Glenda Watson (BHSc ’10) knew a thing or two about health sciences before entering the addictions counselling program at the University of Lethbridge. She already had two years in the community addictions program at the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies under her belt, and because she comes from a family of health-care providers, you might say that Watson has health care in her blood. What Watson didn’t know, however, was how much the addictions counselling program at U of L was going to shape her – both professionally and personally. “The approach is completely different than anything I’d ever experienced before,” says Watson of the program. “The environment was very comfortable and supportive, and I had the sense that I was in the right place right away. Still, the atmosphere was always dynamic. There is something really unique and engaging about the program. The professors’ teaching styles really motivated me and got me thinking about counselling in a completely different way.” Watson points to a particular aspect of the program when describing its most unique and defining attribute. “There is a lot of emphasis placed on selfcare,” she explains. “Getting to the bottom of
your own story is an essential part of being an effective counsellor, and the program really focuses on that. Clients can sense when something is off – if you aren’t genuine, they’re not going to be genuine with you. The program allowed me to delve into my own journey, which in turn made me more open, receptive, accepting and flexible, and I believe a much better counsellor overall.” Watson was able to hold down full-time work at a local resource centre throughout her addictions counselling education, and was hired by Alberta Health Services - Corrections in January of 2011. “The addictions counselling program provided me with an opportunity to make connections and demonstrate my abilities before I even had the degree in my hands,” Watson says. “There is great demand for trained professionals in my line of work. The program set me on a trajectory for success and employment from day one.” Watson is currently pursuing a master’s degree majoring in counselling psychology at the U of L, and is happy to be back on campus. “It’s almost like a family,” Watson says. “Once you’re in, you’re in. The program gives you a sense of belonging that extends well beyond the classroom.”
“Getting to the bottom of your own story is an essential part of being an effective counsellor, and the program really focuses on that. ” Glenda Watson
Knowledge Without Borders A fourth-year public health student discovers her skill set is employable anywhere Academically, Kayla Hopkins felt well prepared when she travelled to Uganda to embark on an independent study in 2012. She had spent months preparing for the trip under the guidance of Sharon Yanicki, coordinator of the public health program at the University of Lethbridge and was well prepared for the challenges of the Ugandan public health situation. What Hopkins wasn’t so sure about was how she would feel once she arrived. “I’d never been to a developing country, so I prepared myself for different living conditions,” says Hopkins. “I went with an open mind. I wanted to take it all in, to help as much as possible, learn as much as possible, and just enjoy the experience.” Luckily, Hopkins’ accommodations in Uganda turned out to be quite comfortable. A little cot in an old school is a big step up from a dusty bed on a hut floor – a sleeping arrangement that was entirely possible, and that Hopkins had braced herself for. But the lodgings weren’t the only thing she found surprising. Poverty is pervasive in Uganda, and Hopkins thought it might be difficult to stay upbeat in the face of rampant disparity and the struggle of those at the short end of it. Once again, Hopkins’ expectations were exceeded. “The Ugandan people have nothing, yet they’re happy and positive,” says Hopkins. “Anything we could do for them, share with them, teach them – they were overjoyed. They were so grateful to have us there, and we learned so much from them.” Public health student Kayla Hopkins (bottom row, middle photo, centre) visited Uganda in 2012 as part of an independent study.
Hopkins and a team of other volunteers taught a six-week health class at a Ugandan school which was met with unbridled enthusiasm among the students. A series of community meetings that Hopkins’ group conducted were also well received and well attended by villagers. “We covered topics that the people there deal with every day,” says Hopkins. “TB, HIV/AIDS, – disease prevention was very important, but we also discussed things like clean water, hand washing and basic money management.” Hopkins was pleased with the inroads she and her team made in the six short weeks they were in Africa, but says that the real benefits from the trip are hers. She’s also quick to point out that the public health program gave her the support and skills she needed to be effective not only in Uganda, but anywhere in the world. “The program gave me an unparalleled learning experience and from a personal perspective it’s been life altering,” says Hopkins. “I developed skills and a knowledge base that will allow me to work wherever I want, and do exactly what I want to do. Community development and engagement, cultural differences, ethical issues – the program taught me how to identify the barriers people of any culture may face in regards to health and wellbeing.” Hopkins is wrapping up her public health program with a practicum placement in Saskatoon and plans to graduate in Spring 2013.
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Working Behind the Scenes Alumna applies knowledge to improve the health of Albertans
University of Lethbridge alumna Maria Hayes (BHSc ’12) may not deal with patients directly, but her work has a big impact on their health. For Hayes, the public is always front and centre, a mindset she credits to her time in the public health program at the University of Lethbridge’s Faculty of Health Sciences. “I always say I have a public health lens. If I read a news story I wonder what are the public health implications of what they’re saying. If they’re talking about cutting the budget I think about the effects on public health.” Looking back on her time in the program, Hayes says she particularly appreciated the opportunity for practical learning that she gained through her practicum at Evaluation Services - Alberta Health Services, where she now works. Beginning in the last
semester of her fourth year, she found herself drawing on classroom learning like the quantitative and qualitative analysis she learned in her research methodology courses, and the technical knowledge she learned in her applied statistics class. “It was so different going from classroombased learning where everything is theory into the workplace where I could figure out how to apply what I’d learned,” says Hayes. Hired the Monday after her placement finished into an entry-level role as a project assistant, Hayes is now a research/evaluation coordinator in Evaluation Services Alberta Health Services. In that role, she helps to evaluate programs and services in community and acute care, with the goal of improving health-care practices. In practical terms, most studies require everything from focus groups to data
collection to writing reports, and span a year or more on average. Hayes’s successful trajectory from university through to her present role has made her realize the gratitude she feels towards those who helped her along the way. “I think my positive experience is largely due to the dedication of the faculty and staff, particularly the public health professors,” says Hayes. Hayes is also a firm believer in the usefulness of Evaluation Services to the overall health-care system. “The work we produce can impact the delivery of healthcare services and inform policy and decision makers. You need to have measure of accountability in health initiatives, and as an external group with no conflict of interest, that’s what we provide.”
“I always say I have a public health lens. If I read a news story I wonder what are the public health implications of what they’re saying. If they’re talking about cutting the budget I think about the effects on public health.” Maria Hayes
The Power of One Field study reaffirms student’s interest in humanitarian-aid opportunities For Alexandria (Ally) Kopp, travel has been a consistent theme throughout her entire life. At just three-months old, her parents took her on her first international excursion to Hawaii. In Grade 4, the family spent a month in Mexico and shortly thereafter, toured across Canada with a Boler trailer in tow. When she was 12, they backpacked around Costa Rica, and just last year, Kopp spent two months globetrotting in Europe. Although the sites she’s visited are vast, the lessons she’s gained have a common thread. “Since I was little, my parents helped me realize how fortunate I am in my life,” says Kopp. “Since then, I have sought the opportunity to travel and help others.” In her third year as a nursing student at the University of Lethbridge, Kopp was one of 18 students selected to go on a month-long field study to Malawi with the goal of conducting culturally relevant health promotion activities related to blood pressure, malaria and HIV/AIDS. While there, she met 19-year-old Seleman at the Chowe School near Mangochi, Malawi. “At first I noticed how shy and soft-spoken he was. He also had a disability impeding his ability to walk,” she recalls. “When I had the chance to talk one-on-one with him, I realized he was very smart and determined. He was fluent in English and dedicated to learning.” Through conversation, Kopp discovered
that Seleman had cut his foot and after a resulting infection, could no longer walk. The story resonated with her, and she offered to do whatever she could to help Seleman regain mobility. Word quickly spread about her commitment, and Kopp was able to arrange a visit for Seleman to see a specialist in a hospital more than an hour away. Unfortunately, nothing medically could be done to help Seleman, but Kopp remained committed to her promise. After returning to Canada, she and her parents wired money to a trusted contact in Malawi for the purchase of a hand-powered wheelchair for Seleman. In November 2012, Kopp received the Lethbridge YMCA Peace Medal for her work in Malawi, an award that recognizes contributions to peace, understanding and making the world a better place. “In Malawi, I learned that one individual can have a great impact,” says Kopp. “If I could help Seleman have just a little bit better quality of life, then I felt that was something I should do. This trip reaffirmed feelings and beliefs I had before, making me more dedicated and interested in actively seeking further humanitarian-aid opportunities.”
In November 2012, Kopp received the Lethbridge YMCA Peace Medal for her work in Malawi. Nursing student Alexandria (Ally) Kopp travelled to Malawi, where she met Seleman and helped him regain his mobility.
Lighting a Fire Bowden inspires students to see the world differently Blurring the distinctions between clinical bedside care and public health has been part of University of Lethbridge Health Sciences instructor Ali Bowden’s experiences almost as long as she’s been a nurse. After completing a nursing diploma, Bowden continued to the University of Alberta where she pursued her Bachelor of Science in nursing. There she had the unique experience of learning full time from seasoned nurses in the classroom while simultaneously working in an orthopedic and trauma unit, treating patients with issues related to everything from gang shooting injuries to lung cancer surgeries. “It was during that time I started to recognize that if we could take preventive measures, most of the patients on the unit wouldn’t even be there. That’s what led me down the path to public health,” recalls Bowden. After graduation, she continued to expand her knowledge by working with leprosy colonies in India, and subsequently during her master’s studies in public health at Brigham Young University, Bowden contributed to international platforms by developing health curriculum in Ghana and the Dominican Republic, as well as making recommendations for a grassroots hygiene project in South Africa. Now an academic assistant teaching both nursing and public health at the U of L, Bowden’s background gives students a distinct advantage. “Being split between the two areas is really
rewarding because I still have a foot in clinical nursing practice, while looking at the bigger picture and what I really believe in as far as an upstream approach to population health,” says Bowden. “Because I teach clinical in hospitals, and I still work occasionally in the ER, I can keep up on nursing, what it’s like to be on the floor and how new research is being applied.” As Bowden explains, this helps her understand the health-care structure in the context of the global arena, and on the flip-side, it provides her with the ability to examine how large scale initiatives trickle down to impact individual patients. “Being able to share those experiences and perspectives expands the minds of my students,” says Bowden. And for Bowden, those very students form the basis of her greatest passion. “One of those most exciting things for me is to see students begin to understand their own potential and be empowered by new knowledge,” she says. A t-shirt with the motto, “I want to light a fire, not fill a bucket” hangs in Bowden’s office, serving as a constant reminder of this goal. “Teaching has a lot of challenges, but when you have students ask really good questions and can see that they are thinking and really starting to synthesize what they’re learning in a way that allows them to think critically and look at the world differently, that makes it all worth it.”
Understanding Addiction Addictions counselling researcher explores addiction in a practical setting
“This is a unique program with an excellent reputation for integrating hands-on activity where students can practise theoretical knowledge in counselling labs.” Dr. Gabriela Novotna
If it is the role of most addiction counsellors to support their clients on the road to recovery, whose role is it to support the counsellors? From her PhD through to her current research studies, you might say University of Lethbridge Health Sciences professor Dr. Gabriela Novotna has assigned herself that very task. Novotna’s research focuses on understanding the ways in which administrators and frontline counsellors in addiction agencies across Canada integrate their personal, lived experiences of addiction and recovery with research-informed practices. Her findings have the potential to help those professionals fine-tune that balance to provide more effective services to clients. Novotna’s latest project involves interviewing addiction centre administrators to explore the ways in which their personal experiences of addiction (between 5 and 35 per cent self-identify as being in recovery) may influence their program planning and practice decisions. This has the potential to help understand how these administrators run their treatment programs and help them improve their methods. The findings also go the other way, says Novotna, as researchers in the addiction field can benefit from increased understanding of decision-making as a complex process that involves different sources of knowledge, including lived experience.
A conscientious researcher, Novotna is mindful of involving the counsellors at every step. “We can’t do research on them, we have to do research with them,” she emphasizes. Before she considers her research final, she hands it over to the people she’s interviewed to make sure she’s captured the essence of their experiences. In return, Novotna has found that they too are eager to read the findings of her research and contribute. Following a PhD in Social Work from Wilfrid Laurier University and a post-doctoral fellowship at McMaster University, Novotna realized that the University of Lethbridge’s addictions counselling program would be the perfect destination to continue her research. She became the faculty’s newest member in the summer of 2012. As the only addictions counselling baccalaureate program in Canada, the program also offered great potential for her to continue to help the next generation learn the practical aspects of counselling. “This is a unique program with an excellent reputation for integrating hands-on activity where students can practise theoretical knowledge in counselling labs,” says Novotna. In addition to her academic research and teaching, Novotna also supervises student practicums at addictions agencies, which allows her to form closer ties to the individuals who are central to her research. “It’s a great way for me to get to know the community and agencies in Lethbridge and Calgary,” says Novotna.
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Quantitatively Speaking Multifaceted statistician reaches across disciplines While some skill sets confine their researchers to a single field, other skills enable them to move easily between disciplines. Dr. Olu Awosoga, a consulting statistician/researcher, has the kind of expertise that allows him to contribute to many research projects across the Faculty of Health Sciences. With a PhD in Statistics from Western Michigan University, Awosoga arrived at the University of Lethbridge in 2009. Currently he is the principal investigator on a five-year project looking at the health status of child-care workers in southern Alberta, and co-investigator on a two-year project looking at moral distress in caregivers looking after Alzheimer’s patients. He was also a co-investigator on a rural wildfire team – with U of L Faculty of Health Sciences researcher Dr. Judith Kulig as the PI – which recently completed a study that looked at community resiliency in the Slave Lake Fire, and he is often called in by other colleagues to help set up databases, create online surveys and formulate questions. Perhaps one of the reasons why Awosoga’s skills are so in demand is that his expertise helps to bring a quantitative aspect to otherwise qualitative studies. As he argues, presenting numbers behind a project help to make a more concrete case for real change.
“Policy makers want to see graphical representation and figures,” says Awosoga. “They don’t want generalizations based on five interviews, but wider data from a survey based on a large sample size.” Awosoga is clearly passionate about applied research. “When I completed my statistics PhD, I decided to solve human problems rather than go into theoretical research,” he says. He is also interested in finding new research angles. For instance, whereas many research studies on child-care focus exclusively on children, Awosoga’s investigation focuses on their caregivers, investigating sources of stress for child-care workers, such as the instability of hourly wages and the lack of health benefits. Of course, improving the lives of their caregivers would have a direct impact on the children too. If Awosoga has given a lot to the Faculty of Health Sciences through his stats skills sharing, he says he has also gained much in return. “I’ve received a lot from the University of Lethbridge,” he says. “The University is very welcoming and friendly.” With his overall research ambition to always be working on projects that support the next generation, this multifaceted academic clearly feels that he’s found a good home for his research.
“I decided to solve human problems rather than go into theoretical research.” Dr. Olu Awosoga
A Step in the Right Direction Research study investigates moral distress and works toward solutions Knowing the right thing to do is one thing and actually being able to do it, quite another. In fact, many nurses experience that dilemma every day, according to University of Lethbridge researcher Dr. Shannon Spenceley, and she is exploring ways to lessen this source of stress among nurses in the workplace. A nursing professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Spenceley is the principal investigator of a research study that is examining moral distress among nurses who care for those with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other forms of dementia. The study, which is funded by the Alzheimer Society Research Program, is the first to focus on moral distress in residential care settings, such as long-term care or supportive-living facilities. The two-year project also involves U of L co-investigators Dr. Bradley Hagen and Dr. Olu Awosoga, as well as Dr. Barry Hall of the University of Calgary and Dr. Roland Ikuta, Medical Director of Seniors Health in the South Zone of Alberta Health Services. The Alzheimer Society of Canada reports that more than 747,000 Canadians are living with AD or other types of dementia – and that figure is expected to more than double by 2038. A fatal and progressive disease that destroys brain cells, AD affects one’s ability to remember things, make decisions and perform routine activities. Most people living in residential care facilities have some form of dementia, including AD. Nurses and other formal caregivers can find themselves in difficult, and ethically complex situations when trying to provide the best care
for residents with dementia. To illustrate with an example, Spenceley explains, it may be that a nurse who is caring for a confused and agitated resident can either use a prescription drug to reduce the agitation or simply sit with a resident until the resident calms down. The nurse knows that while the former option may cause undesirable side effects, the latter one will require extra time. In a situation where staffing is short and there are many competing demands, the nurse may feel that the choice he/she feels is right is simply not possible. Such situations create feelings of moral distress, which has been linked over time to nurse burnout, and to nurses leaving a job or even the profession. To better understand the triggers and effects of moral distress, and to help residential-care managers address staff recruitment and retention challenges, Spenceley’s team will interview and survey nursing caregivers in several facilities across southern Alberta. “Ultimately, we want to develop strategies to mitigate moral distress,” says Spenceley. “By understanding such issues, and working to create solutions, it creates the opportunity to address some of the recruitment and retention issues faced in this sector of care. Finally, anything that can be done to create a healthier and happier workforce caring for this complex population is a step in the right direction in terms of high quality residential care.” To learn more about this study, visit: www.moraldistress.ca. For more about The Alzheimer Society, visit: www.alzheimer.ca.
“By understanding such issues, and working to create solutions, it creates the opportunity to address some of the recruitment and retention issues faced in this sector of care.” Dr. Shannon Spenceley
Moral Distress Research Team (left to right): Stacey Leavitt, Dr. Olu Awosoga, Dr. Roland Ikuta, Dr. Shannon Spenceley, Colin Zieber and Dr. Bradley Hagen. Missing: Dr. Barry Hall and Janet Lapins
Inspired and Inspiring Leadership
Jennifer Penner was recognized as the 2012 Friend of Health Sciences To say Jennifer Penner wears many hats would be an understatement. She’s the team lead and nurse clinician at Lethbridge’s Heart Function Clinic/Heart Failure Network, a regular guest lecturer in University of Lethbridge nursing classes and an advocate for more connected and patient-centric health care. Yet at heart her professional scope is unified by a very personal philosophy. “The thing that has inspired me is the connection with patients and families, and the ability to deliver excellent care in such a way that it will empower people to live better lives,” says Penner. Clearly Penner has passed that inspiration along to others. In 2012, her longstanding contributions were recognized with the Friend of Health Sciences Award, an annual honour from the Faculty of Health Sciences that recognizes an individual or agency who has made a significant contribution to health education and research at the University of Lethbridge. Originally from Bow Island, Alta., Penner completed her Bachelor of Science in nursing degree at the University of Alberta and has spent most of her 25-year career in southern Alberta. Today, Penner supervises five nurses at the Heart Function Clinic, as well as leading the relatively new and forward-thinking Heart Failure Network which she helped to create in 2008. By encouraging greater collaboration between diverse roles such as case managers, acute care workers and even family doctors, the Network integrates health services among these practitioners and increases their awareness
of their roles relative to their colleagues, and even more significantly, to the patient. “When we understand what everyone’s role is, the patient in the middle gets better benefits and outcomes,” says Penner.
“The thing that has inspired me is the connection with patients and families, and the ability to deliver excellent care in such a way that it will empower people to live better lives.” Jennifer Penner With an estimated 500,000 heart failure patients in Canada and more than 80,000 in Alberta alone, the significance of this work becomes even more apparent. At 10,000 admissions per year, heart failure is one of the most common diagnoses for medical admission to hospital, says Penner. “It’s a huge chronic disease. That’s why we need an approach that’s far reaching to promote better care, better outcomes and wise utilization of health-care resources.” She adds that greater integration tends to increase patient stability, which cuts costs by reducing the burden on busy emergency rooms and contributes to fewer admissions to acute care facilities. On top of her leadership in the Heart Failure Network, Penner also shares her expertise with the next generation of nurses, a commitment that began back in 2003. Today she lectures
for several faculty members in both nursing and research courses, grounding her talks about heart failure in real-world case studies that the young nurses-in-training are likely to encounter early in their careers. “Lecturing is near and dear to my heart,” says Penner. “I love having an influence on promoting clinical excellence and building the future of nursing.” She also helps students gain experience by connecting them with practical work experiences in clinics, and helping with other real-world skills such as cardiac assessment. While Penner is clearly motivated by factors beyond awards and accolades, she says she was “deeply honoured” to be recognized by the University of Lethbridge, noting that her work in the academic setting has helped her realize her own personal potential. “It is so rewarding to be collaborative, to work with the esteemed professionals at the University, and to experience the infectious vitality of new nurses. It motivates me and inspires me to be better.”
Nominate a Friend of Health Sciences! If you know an individual who has directly or indirectly made a distinguished contribution to health education in the Faculty of Health Sciences, and would like to nominate him/her as this year’s Friend of Health Sciences, please visit our website at: www.uleth.ca/healthsciences/friend Nominations must be received by May 1, 2013.
The 2013 Snapshot is produced by the Faculty of Health Sciences in conjunction with University Advancement at the University of Lethbridge. Editor: Katie Young Design: Three Legged Dog Design Feature Writers: Suzanne Bowness Natasha Evdokimoff Jana McFarland Dana Yates Photography: Stefane Berube Jones Foto Leslie Ohene-Adjei Rob Olson Photography Printing: U of L Printing Services Correspondence should be addressed to: Faculty of Health Sciences University of Lethbridge 4401 University Drive W Lethbridge, AB T1K 3M4 Tel: 403-329-2699 | Fax: 403-329-2668 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org For more information on all the health sciences programs, visit: www.ulethbridge.ca/healthsciences To stay up-to-date on what’s happening with the U of L and the Faculty of Health Sciences, visit: www.ulethbridge.ca/unews Recycled paper containing 10% post-consumer fiber.
Yearly newsletter from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge.