By Neale McDevitt
It has long been said that nurses are among the most underappreciated professionals in the world. Tuesday morning, however, at a press conference held in the atrium of the Francesco Bellini Life Sciences Building, all that changed with the announcement that McGill’s School of Nursing was launching a new patient- and family-centred initiative made possible by a visionary contribution from entrepreneur and philanthropist Richard S. Ingram, of the Montreal-based Newton Foundation.
“All you nurses out there, this day is yours,” a beaming Ingram told the standing-room-only crowd that spilled up the staircase and along the gallery one floor above.
“Yes,” called out more than one enthusiastic voice in the audience.
Playing reporter, Ingram asked a question he has often heard himself: why nursing? Calling the profession “the oldest calling of the human species” and one that is essential to the proper functioning of our health-care system, Ingram then asked “why does nursing languish near the bottom of the rankings for targeted philanthropy? We don’t know the answer but that is why we have chosen to focus upon a profession rather than a disease.”
The new McGill Nursing Collaborative Program brings together nurses in clinical practice, education, research, administration and graduate training at McGill and its teaching hospitals to tackle key areas of need in our community. The program also aims to build on the leadership of McGill’s graduate nursing program, increasing admissions and the recruitment of top clinical nurse specialists and hospital-based researchers.
The new Susan E. French Chair – named in honour of a former director of the School of Nursing – was created to support this new program. Sean Clarke, newly appointed director of the McGill Nursing Collaborative Program, has been named the inaugural chair-holder.
It was also announced that in honour of Ingram’s gift, the School has been renamed the Ingram School of Nursing.
Day of celebration
For Principal Heather Munroe-Blum, the day was a celebration on several fronts. First, she was able to pay tribute to longtime colleague Susan French, for whom the new Chair was named, and someone she has known since the 1970s.
She said it also marked the beginning of a new era in nursing, a profession that “has had to fight for survival in the health-care system and in… faculties of health sciences and faculties of medicine.
“We are deeply appreciative of this transformative gift, which will allow us to continue charting a world-leading course for the practice of nursing,” said Munroe-Blum. “McGill’s School of Nursing has been a leader in nursing education since it was founded nearly 100 years ago. Mr. Ingram’s generosity will enable the Ingram School of Nursing to enhance its trans-disciplinary research, and promote and facilitate evidence-informed nursing practices to meet the needs of patients and their families, here in Quebec, and broadly.
“Without Richard Ingram’s absolutely steadfast determined commitment… we wouldn’t be here today,” she told the audience.
The gift has come at exactly the right moment said David Eidelman, Vice-Principal of Health Affairs and Dean of Medicine, with a province-wide nursing shortage only being exacerbated by the increase in chronic diseases, the care of which falls mainly on the shoulders of nurses.
“This investment marks a milestone in the history of nursing in our Faculty,” said Eidelman. “The School has been at the vanguard since its inception and continues to break new ground, experiencing dramatic growth with new graduate programs and collaborations that target society’s needs, both in Quebec and internationally. The role of nursing is expanding in our health care system, and McGill, with its partners, is proud to lead the way.”
Time and time again during the press conference the word “community” kept cropping up as speakers emphasized the tight-knit nature of the nursing community.
“Nursing has always been a ‘we’ profession,” said Hélène Ezer, Director of the School. “We share among us a set of values… We partner and collaborate with patients and families. We see each patient and family situation as unique and needing individualized care… We believe we need to care during illness and to focus on health at the same time. And, as we move forward today we can say we believe in each other.”
Clarke, the new Susan E. French chair-holder and a world-renowned nursing researcher, said it was wonderful to be welcomed back to McGill, where he earned his PhD in 1998. He stressed how he hoped to give the University’s current and future nursing students the same world-class education and training he received here.
“I’m a proud product of this McGill nursing community,” he told the crowd. “My PhD… was directed with by world-class scholars who helped connect me with the best courses, committee members and researchers and I have been the personal beneficiary of the many strengths of this community. I’ve carried exceptional training and solid values of McGill with me in my professional journey ever since graduation for which I am so grateful.”
Looking ahead, Clarke said he wanted to strengthen the existing ties within the nursing community both at McGill and further afield as well as to “build new bridges outside our discipline and institutions and to imagine and create a new future for ourselves.
“Our students will continue to witness the operation of a very special community of scholars and practitioners and will have even more opportunities to be involved in the integration of practice and scholarship,” Clarke said. “Just as those who came before them, they will continue to be socialized as leaders who put patients and families at the center of care and who understand how to use inquiry and data to change care delivery for the good.”
If Ingram’s parting words are any indication, Clarke’s vision of the future is under good stewardship. “We call on all these nurses to seek out and pursue with all your wits and energy the most promising opportunities,” said the School of Nursing benefactor. “If you do this, as long as any of its funds remain, The Newton Foundation will accompany you.”
To learn more, view this video interview with Hélène Ezer, Director of the Ingram School of Nursing, and Sean Clarke, Susan E. French Chair in Nursing Research and Innovative Practice.