Nursing students at the University of Lethbridge are speaking out after not being able to work at their practicum placements during the faculty association strike.
Emma-Jean Koscielny, a fourth-year Bachelor of Nursing student at the U of L, said their preceptorships are meant to be a continuous hands-on experience in the field to encompass all of their learnings.
As she was getting into the swing of things at her maternity and labour unit placement in Manitoba, plans were turned upside down as the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association went on strike on Feb. 10.
“I think it’s impacted each of us a little bit differently, but there’s certainly some common themes,” she said.
“I’m worried that (the) strike is going to impact when we can write our licensing exam, which in turn impacts when we can be employed as registered nurses.”
Her 15th shift, and the last time she was in her placement, was on Feb. 6. She has 16 left to go.
“Until the strike is settled, faculty members are not available for teaching or supervision, except for some very limited circumstances as set out through the Essential Services Agreement,” the University of Lethbridge said in a statement.
Outside of this agreement, the institution said it’s not possible for faculty members to provide supervision.
“In some very limited circumstances that supervision was available within senior administration (PSIII students in Education). In others, that capacity did not exist given available academic expertise or requirements to meet minimum supervisor to student supervision ratios (as is the case in Nursing).”
Nathaniel Lopez, president of the Nursing Students’ Association at the U of L, said the requirement for nursing students was to have 350 hours completed by March 30, which is now “impossible.”
On March 8, he penned a letter to the president, board of governors, and the office of the Faculty of Health Sciences.
“(The) ULFA offered to pay nursing instructors teaching NURS 4750 (Senior Preceptorship) out of the ULFA fund so that preceptorship instructors can continue facilitating the course,” the letter read.
“However, the senior leadership at the University of Lethbridge deliberately refused this offer.”
Lopez said there’s been very little information as to what’s next, with many students reaching out to him with questions he can’t answer.
“We don’t even know if we’re graduating,” he told Global News. “How many hours do we need? Do we still need 350?”
Lopez believes the pause on preceptorships is having a negative impact on more than just the students.
“Shouldn’t nursing students be on the front lines because they’re the ones providing care to the health-care system?” he asked.
“We could be in our units, wherever that may be, helping out and I think really making a difference. So it’s pretty sad that we’re being kept from doing that,” Koscielny added.
In a statement to Global News on Thursday, the University of Lethbridge said it “maintains an ongoing dialogue with ULFA about how all students – including all those involved in practicums, preceptorships and other professional placements – can resume their studies and experiential training as soon as possible.”
It added President Mike Mahon plans to meet with the NSA on Friday “to discuss concerns raised in the letter, and to provide important context about how the university is working to create conditions that would encourage ULFA to end its strike action.
“The university is optimistic that the upcoming mediation process will be a pivotal step towards securing a fair collective agreement that respects the value of our faculty members, and restoring important student learning opportunities including placements like these.”
Another round of mediation is expected to begin on Monday.