Lena-Marie Voelker was one of more than 100 fourth-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing students at MacEwan University who had the chance to spend their final clinical practicum as paid employees.

The partnership with Alberta Health Services aimed to help address staffing shortages by creating a hybrid delivery method that offered students an option to accept paid positions linked to their practicum (called a preceptorship) learning. 

“This innovative model brought together the best of learning, earning and collaborating,” says Dr. Christy Raymond, dean of the Faculty of Nursing. “It addressed a need within the health-care system and challenged the traditional way we have delivered preceptorship education.”

This innovative model brought together the best of learning, earning and collaborating
Dr. Christy Raymond

Voelker, for example, worked as an undergraduate nurse in a surgery unit at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, taking full responsibility for basic nursing care – assessment, diagnosis, intervention and evaluation – while reporting to a registered nurse.

“In this placement, I was a coworker rather than a student,” she says. “Because I had more responsibility and felt like a trusted part of the nursing team, it was easier to picture myself as a member of the workforce.”

While paid practicums exist in some parts of the world, they aren’t generally an option in North America. Interested in the impact these experiences might have on teaching and learning, nursing faculty members Kathleen Miller, Yvonne Shelast, Safina McIntyre and Tanya Paananen are conducting a study about this initiative. 

Together they are looking at the experiences of students and faculty during paid preceptorships, and exploring the benefits, challenges, satisfaction and perceived levels of support from the university and the clinical settings. Information gathered from this study will be used to further explore innovative approaches to clinical nursing education. 

Voelker, who will graduate at the university’s spring Convocation ceremonies, is one of many students who shared their experiences with the researchers. She says that having the chance to earn while she learned had her approaching her final term with renewed optimism after working and studying throughout the pandemic. 

“I’m a strong advocate for student mental health,” she says. “Being compensated for our preceptorship experience meant that instead of trying to avoid burnout while balancing our jobs and our studies, we could feel optimistic about our career choice again.”

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