OKANAGAN - Optimal patient care relies on nurses being able to make quick, effective, and educated health care decisions. For Courtney Miller, a young Kelowna nurse completing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) this year, her decision-making confidence was put to the test in April during an aid trip to Zambia.
“The Western province in Mongu, Zambia, is a low income and low resources area of the country. The people there have an immense need for health care, including the most basic of care,” says Miller. “We had to work very autonomously, and feel confident in our decisions. I even got to deliver babies.”
During her African trip, she also set up a health clinic accompanied only by one doctor and another student nurse in a rural Zambian village. Each day, she would assess, diagnose and prescribe medications to more than a hundred patients.
“Returning to Kelowna, it certainly makes you grateful for what we have, especially the health care facilities, equipment, and medical teams,” adds Miller.
Miller is a member of the first graduating class to complete a partnership program that sees students take years one and two of the BSN program at Okanagan College and transfer to UBC Okanagan to complete the final two years. This inter-institution collaborative partnership, announced in 2011, is a successful example of the enriching educational opportunities available for students within B.C.’s interior. Both programs are recognized by the College of Registered Nurses of BC.
Miller says the small class sizes at Okanagan College truly helped her be prepared to transition into a larger university setting. With only 24 students in the College’s program, she credits the increased one-on-one time with the instructors for making sure questions got answered and concepts were understood.
“In a small class size environment, you can’t hide and you don’t get missed. The teachers knew us all by name and made sure we were on the right track,” shares Miller. “It also meant we each had more time in the health simulation labs with the mannequin to practice care scenarios. I felt prepared before going to UBCO, perhaps over-prepared, which is a good thing as nursing school isn’t easy.”
Students at Okanagan College gain practical experience in a state of the art simulation room that replicates a hospital room with all the modern supplies and equipment it would contain. During each semester students rotate through, and with a low student-instructor ratio, this means that every student receives multiple turns to practice.
“In the nursing program we encourage students to ask questions, think critically, and advance their knowledge through practice,” says Monique Powell, Okanagan College Bachelor of Science in Nursing Chair and Professor. “It’s about giving them the tools to succeed in their future endeavors, which with our nursing program affords them the opportunity to transfer to UBC’s reputable nursing program for completion of their degree.”
In describing the combined model, Miller explains that it is a reassurance to have a path mapped out. “It’s the best of both worlds.”
A testament to how the right training leads to jobs, Miller has already launched her career. Two days after returning from Africa, she started at Kelowna General Hospital where she is a nurse on the Acute Medical Floor that provides stroke patient care.