When he started his undergraduate degree four years ago, Robert Fraser was obsessed with downloading podcasts to his iPod and listening to lectures.
But the Ryerson University nursing student couldn’t find any about his chosen field or health care in general. That’s when Fraser first had the idea to start his own website, http://www.Nursingideas.ca.
As a student, I was very new to the profession, so I didn’t have the subject matter expertise,” says Fraser. “But what I did have, through student leadership, was access to researchers, leaders and innovators in nursing and health care.
He launched the site in 2008 after recording his first interview by propping his laptop up on a pile of books and using the built-in webcam. “You can hear my computer fan in the background,” he laughs.
Since then, more than 11,000 people from 96 countries have visited the site. “It’s cool to see that someone from, say, Sri Lanka has found the site,” says Fraser. “I never would have had the chance, as a fourth-year nursing student, to go to that country and share with the nurses there.
The website mainly features interviews that Fraser, now a master’s student in nursing at the University of Toronto, has done with thinkers, innovators and leaders of his profession. He’s talked to professors, policy-makers, executive directors at health organizations and, of course, working nurses.
His interview with U.S. journalist and nursing advocate Suzanne Gordon, who is focused on the way nurses talk about the work they do, is popular. So is his talk with Marla Salmon, the former U.S. Chief Nurse, who advised then-president Bill Clinton on health care.
Fraser strives to explain the latest developments in the nursing profession.
In the classroom, I wasn’t always the most studious — I didn’t always do my homework — but my involvement in student leadership helped me meet the people who were driving change in nursing,” he explains. “So I’d understand what the point of certain documents were, in terms of impacting the Ontario health-care system, or why an organization released a response.
I saw my peers reading the same documents, being bored by them, writing the report and moving on, without fully understanding them. I thought Nursing Ideas could change that.
For the most part, Fraser chooses his interviews based on access — he attends conferences and is linked to professional nursing associations, where he meets nurses with interesting job titles or specialties.
He wrote his final undergraduate paper on new-graduate transition to the workplace, and cited Judy Boychuck Duchscher, an RN and executive director of Nursing The Future, a Canadian non-profit group that helps nursing grads.
Later, at a conference, he met Duchscher and interviewed her for his website. At another conference, he met Cathy Crowe, a well-known Toronto street nurse and activist for the homeless.
When I talk to a nurse like Cathy Crowe, I don’t want her answer as to why nurses should care about homelessness,” he says. “I don’t want a scripted response. What I want is to expose nurses and students to the human side of Crowe — how she got started and why she cares about these issues.
Fraser is also active on social media. His Twitter account has more than 2,000 followers and is actually older than his website — he started tweeting in 2006.
One summer, when he was working on a project in a hospital about 3D classrooms and teaching nursing students, a health organization saw his tweets and offered to share the literature review they’d compiled on the topic.
The funny thing is, three weeks later, the organization decided to close down their Twitter account,” says Fraser. Like many others, the organization deemed social media a waste of time.
Fraser sees the technology as a way to share information and communicate among nurses.
I feel like the person with the first fax machine,” he jokes.
At the Rouge Valley hospitals in east Toronto, Ajax and Pickering, nurse Lynn Tkac is working with physicians and nurses to bring e-health to patients.
Tkac is the project manager of clinical informatics in the Rouge Valley Health System, and she also serves as the president of the Ontario Nursing Infomatics Group, which is affiliated with the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario.
Although you might think infomatics, which includes efforts to digitize patient records, is relatively new, the group is actually celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
But Tkac says that generational gaps are one big challenge.
We have four generations of nurses working. That’s rare,” she says. “Up until now, about 30 per cent of staff self-declared that they either never use computers or really weren’t comfortable with them.
Both Tkac’s group and the RNAO are working on educating nurses and pushing forward new health initiatives. Last November, Rouge Valley introduced an electronic system for its birthing centre, which has been well-received by nurses and patients.
The infomatics group also uploads videocasts to its website and has a Twitter feed.
There’s an irony there, because those things — Twitter, Facebook — they’re often blocked in organizations,” points out Tkac. “If you want nurses to use social media, that has to change. Nurses aren’t going to want to do it after they’ve worked a 12-hour shift.