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Acknowledging the past and a commitment to action

Posted by Theresa Gilbert on June 14, 2021 in News

Dr. Ruth Martin-Misener, Director, School of Nursing

In my role as Director, students have told me of their experiences at the School of Nursing. They spoke of some troubling situations and the need for important improvements to the equity and safety of learning environments. I am very sorry to hear about these situations and I am concerned about the impacts on students. Thank you very much to those who have spoken out, for your courage and leadership in speaking about the need for changes. I recognize that your leadership is an additional level of pressure and stress amidst the rigors of course workloads and rapidly shifting learning environments due to COVID.

The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) has released a statement acknowledging that anti-Black racism is part of the history of Canadian Nursing.  I acknowledge with humility and regret that we at Dalhousie School of Nursing are part of that history. In the past, efforts to support students from historically disadvantaged groups (including those who are members of 2SLGBTQi populations, those who are Indigenous and racialized, and persons with (dis)abilities, among others), lacked the rigour required to generate meaningful and sustainable change.  This lack of focused action has been hurtful to both individuals and to communities, who need to be reflected in care environments and the nursing workforce.

That must, can, and will change. I give you my commitment and that of the School of Nursing to do better and be better as we move forward together toward a preferred future.  

We are joining with Dr. Brenda Merritt, Dean, Faculty of Health to take proactive immediate steps to combat anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, discrimination against 2SLGBTQi people, and other forms of discrimination Dal Health Statement on Anti-Black racism . This commitment is inclusive of all people within priority groups including African Nova Scotians, Mi’kmaq, Canadians of African descent, all Indigenous Peoples, members of other racially visible groups, Acadians, members of the 2SLGBTQI population, and persons with (dis)abilities.

To tackle three of our highest immediate priorities, the School of Nursing’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee has established working groups that include students, faculty and staff. The areas of work that are in progress are:

1.      Strengthening our equitable admissions policy to increase admissions of priority groups.

2.      Reviewing all nursing course outlines to assess and strengthen how EDI and antiracism is being infused in nursing courses.

3.      Developing strategies to increase the number of faculty, staff and adjunct faculty from priority groups.

Another key change at the School of Nursing is to enhance our environment, so it is safe, trauma-informed and welcoming for all students to stay and complete their program. This will require a focus on dialogue, learning and problem-solving, and especially, listening carefully to each other. Your efforts have contributed to momentum on this already and I hope the School of Nursing will continue to benefit from your expertise and advice. We will also be exploring frameworks and resources that could help us on this journey.

To close communication gaps and enhance the on-going collaboration and consultation needed to inform the improvements, I am implementing two EDI in Nursing Forums each year. The first forum was held in April 2021 and focused on refining a draft action plan to address issues brought forward by students. The forum was co-hosted by a faculty member and student. I also commit to providing written updates on our progress. In the meantime, I am happy to meet with or hear from anyone who has ideas or feedback and am providing a list of contact numbers for resources at Dalhousie.

I want to thank you again and give you my commitment and that of the School of Nursing Faculty to do better, to be better as we embrace a commitment to action in supporting students from priority groups, improving the student experience and learning, and as a result, improving the health of and care to future patients, families, and communities.

Ruth Martin-Misener NP, PhD, FAAN, FCAN
Professor and Director, School of Nursing
Assistant Dean, Research, Faculty of Health
Dalhousie University
Box 15000
5869 University Ave
Halifax, NS, B3H 4R2
Telephone: 902-494-2226
Fax: 902-494-3487
Email: ruth.martin-misener@dal.ca

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