PedNIG Paediatric Nursing Skills Workshop: March 2016

On Saturday, March 05, 2016, I had the privilege of attending the Paediatric Skills Workshop hosted by the Paediatric Nursing Interest Group (PedNIG) of RNAO. The event was held at McMaster Medical Centre in Hamilton, Ontario. A large group of nursing students from nursing schools across Ontario eagerly attended the event, hoping to learn something new about the field of paediatrics. The room was filled with excited and anxious nursing students, waiting to hear from respectable and established paediatric registered nurses, hoping to pick their brains and learn some skills of the trade.

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The day began with open remarks from PedNIG RNAO representatives and executives, outlining the agenda for the day. The line up of speakers and presenters proved to be very exciting for the students, with a wide variety of speakers – from professionals who have been in practice for 20+ years, to new graduates who are all to familiar with the feelings of the students in the room. It was interesting to see the wide rang of experiences come together and speak about Paediatric nursing through different yet similar lenses. Each speaker and presented provided different perspectives and illustrated different ways of approaching this practice through their individualized experiences.

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The morning progressed with starting by learning how to complete a head-to-toe assessment of the paediatric population. We analyzed the process of how to conduct various health assessments in children ages 0-18 years of age, and how to act on complications found during certain assessments. It was a comprehensive review of the anatomy and physiology of the paediatric population that touched on key concepts and skills in paediatric nursing.

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The next session that followed was an overview of medication administration and dosage calculation for the paediatric population. Through this session, nursing students learned about different forms of administrating certain medications with various paediatric patients. We learned about how to assess for any signs and symptoms, how to assess for any adverse effects/toxic effects, etc. We also learned how to calculate the appropriate dosage of medication for paediatric patients depending on their weight and their condition. Students were attentive, actively participating, and collaborative with their peers throughout the entire session.

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The morning concluded by learning about paediatric mental health. This was a very new topic introduced to the practice of paediatric nursing, as mental health – up until recently – was not a standard assessment practiced in medicine. With increasing demands of putting more of a focus on mental health within health care, the paediatric population has proven to be one of the most vulnerable populations for instability in mental health. Through this particular session, we learned why exactly that is and certain influencing factors that affect the mental health of children. We learned what kinds of plans of action and intervention that paediatric nurses can take, in order to ensure that our patient population has a cohesive mental health. We learned about the importance of providing family-centred care and patient-centred care, and how we – as nurses – can play an important role as a source of support for our patients and their families.

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Following the morning’s workshop sessions, a lunch break ensued and afterwards, the afternoon’s session began. The afternoon’s session covered important topics in the field of paediatric nursing such as “Hot Topics in Paediatrics,” covering key illnesses and complications amongst the paediatric population (i.e Asthma, Type I Diabetes, pain). Following the Hot Topics session, a panel of esteemed professionals in the field conducted a Questions and Answers session with the students. This proved to be the highlight of the entire event, as students eagerly asked questions about the field and how to pursue a career in paediatrics as nurse to experienced professionals. Students asked questions such as:

“How do I gain experience in paediatrics as a student?”

“What makes a resume outstanding?”

“How can we maximize our experience in our clinical placements?”

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The panel of esteemed professionals were all too welcoming and eager to answer any inquiries and concerns that the students had. They answered with a high level of efficiency and conviction. The students were very receptive to the replies and very eager to participate in the discussions that were facilitated through the Q&A panel. This last session proved to be the most exciting aspect of the entire event and was a good way to end the day.

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Needless to say, the entire event proved to be very useful and very interactive for both the student attendees and the event hosts. The workshop was able to enhance the professional development of nursing students eager to build a career in paediatrics in a very significant way. The response to the various sessions held throughout the day were quite positive and enabled PedNIG – RNAO to be hopeful for future sessions. The event overall proved to be a huge success and attendees – myself included – left learning something new and feeling one step closer to their goals of becoming paediatrics nurses.

The Campus We Walk On: Social Justice Issues at Ryerson

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During Social Justice Week, I attended the Social Justice Walk with Cathy Crowe.  Cathy Crowe is a street nurse, social activist and educator.  She has worked on issues affecting people experiencing homelessness for more than 17 years.  In 2013, Cathy Crowe joined the Ryerson Family (also known as Ramily) as a distinguished visiting practitioner.  I was very excited to see that she would be leading the Social Justice Walk on campus.

We walk on Ryerson’s campus generally 5 days a week for 4 years.  We spend countless hours in lectures, in the library, in the gym, grabbing a coffee and sitting by Lake Devo.  Ryerson campus is a place we feel at home; if you don’t believe me, check out the number people who take their shoes off and kick back in the library.  While we enjoy the comfort of our second home, we may not remember what surrounds us.  The campus we walk on is immersed in and surrounded by social justice issues.  During the Social Justice Week Walk, we visited the area around Lake Devo, the library, the Quad, the Ryerson Student Centre, and Yonge-Dundas Square.  The places we walk on everyday for education are also sites of struggles and victories in the fight for social justice.

What’s In a Name:
If you’re trying to identify a social justice issue at Ryerson, look no further than its name.  Ryerson University was named after Egerton Ryerson; the man whose ideas shaped the modern day education system.  Ryerson believed that education and religion should be separated but he held a very different view on education for Indigenous children.  Ryerson believed that education for Indigenous children should combine education, religion and physical labour.  It was these ideas that contributed to the creation of the residential school system across Canada that operated until 1996.

Cheryl Trudeau, a coordinator with the Aboriginal Education Council, joined us at the Ryerson Statue on Gould Street to discuss Ryerson’s acknowledgement of the history behind the name that is displayed across the downtown core.  Ryerson University both welcomes and respects Aboriginal peoples, committing itself to proactively working with Aboriginal peoples.  As part of the Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education and Training Plan, Ryerson established the Aboriginal Education Council in 2010.  Its vision is to ensure that the next seven generations of Aboriginal people will have greater opportunities and success in education at Ryerson University. http://www.ryerson.ca/aec/index.html

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The Campus Daycare: More than Cute Kids in the Quad:
Perhaps you’ve seen the adorable children that attend the daycare located near Kerr Hall West.  They can often be seen taking a stroll around the Quad.  On a surface level, we enjoy seeing cute little kids amongst the big ones that attend Ryerson but much deeper is a social justice issue that has become a federal election issue for some parties.

The topic of childcare holds several social justice issues within itself; affordable childcare, the number of childcare spaces available, the availability of licensed and safe childcare spaces, precarious work experienced by Early Childhood Educators, ability for parents to return to work. and many more.  Providing childcare through a market system is not working for children, parents, families or those who works in the childcare sector.  We need a publicly funded system to address the many social justice issues that fall under childcare.  In Canada, only 20 percent of families have access to licensed childcare spaces, and this includes Quebec which has implemented a $7 a day childcare policy.

Ryerson Lifeline Syria:
Following the emergence of a devastating photo of Alan Kurdi, a toddler who drowned fleeing Syria with his family, refugees have become a topic of conversation in our politics, at school, on social media and at our dinner tables.  Outside Heaslip House, we learned about Ryerson Lifeline Syria and how to get involved.

Canada is unique in that citizens can sponsor refugees through their own means.  Lifeline Syria works to match people who want to sponsor refugees with people who are seeking sponsorship.  They act as a matchmaker, connecting these two groups of people.  This has emerged as a response to a complicated private system that has many twists and turns as well as long wait times.  While students may not have the financial means to sponsor a family, they are able to get involved in other ways.  Ryerson Lifeline Syria has several committees that address different issues refugees face.  Students often join committees related to their program of study and provide support as people arrive to Canada.  Interested students can get more information and sign up at: http://www.ryerson.ca/lifelinesyria/about/index.html

The part of our campus that isn’t really our campus but we consider it part of our campus so it’s pretty much ours:
Yonge-Dundas Square; while not technically part of Ryerson’s campus, any student will tell you that this is Ryerson turf.  Yonge-Dundas Square went through huge changes before our time at Ryerson; this revitalization was intended to address financial interests as well as build community.

With the goal of building community, Yonge-Dundas Square should be about people, activism, community and being one with the land we walk on.  Over time, business and private interests have overtook the area and public space.  This can be seen in the presence of private security in Yonge-Dundas Square, whose role is often to remove people experiencing homelessness that do not fit in with the gentrified idea for the space.  Removing those who do not fit in with this idea takes away from what public space is all about; building the surrounding community which includes those who are not housed.

As we stood in Yonge-Dundas Square, connections were made between these levels of security and Bill C-51; the controversial anti-terrorism bill passed by both the Federal Conservative and Liberal parties.  A bill of this nature makes is more difficult to protest and those who do are surveilled much more.  Yonge-Dundas Square has often been a site of protest for several social justice issues.  The increased surveillance of protestors, especially those who are marginalized, demeans the purpose of public space.

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In and Beyond Ryerson:
While the Social Justice Walk focused on social justice issues on campus, these issues extend to our communities outside of Ryerson.  In the past 10 years, the City of Toronto has lost over 1000 shelter beds due gentrification.  Development that has taken place has either been in the form of condos or properties have been left vacant.  The only youth shelter east of the Don Valley closed its doors last week.  Cathy Crowe has been teaching at Ryerson for two years at Ryerson; within that time there have been 3 or 4 homeless deaths on campus.  These on-campus tragedies directly relate to the city and communities that surround Ryerson.  These deaths are 3 or 4 of 700 names that are on the homeless memorial behind the Eaton Centre.  A homeless memorial is held the second Tuesday of every month at 12:00 pm as both a point of remembrance and pushing forward in advocacy on homeless issues.

Pushing Forward:
The Social Justice Week Walk was informative and emotional, but ended with a point of hope.  We need to make Ryerson less silent on both the social justice issues we walk on and those that surround our campus.  We have people at Ryerson who recognize oppression and marginalization both on and off campus; we have potential.

In Defense of Video Games

While I may be taking some online courses this summer, not having to rush through assignments, do a ton of readings, and make it to classes on time has given me a lot more time to myself.  Sure, there is work around the house to do.  We’ve been working hard getting the outside of the house ready for summer, and soon we’ll turn our eyes to the mess that is the storage area in our basement.  Yeah, I might be working part time in a school aged program, but that leaves my nights free to me.  I cannot tell you how handy having my nights free has been.  After all, giant caverns at the bottom of the earth don’t dig themselves out.

I have been stuck deep in Minecraft this summer.  For those of you who don’t know what it is, Minecraft is a game you can play on your computer or Xbox.  The premise behind the game is really simple.  It’s just you in a giant world.  This world has lakes, oceans, hills, mountains, caves, deserts, forests, and wandering animals.  Everything is made out of blocks, which you can break down, take with you, and put somewhere else.  You can process blocks into other things, such as chopping down trees to make wooden planks so you can make a cottage.  The world is yours to discover and to re-make however you want.  You can make a farm, a giant glass house, a castle up in the sky, a cottage at the bottom of the world (like I did), anything your imagination can think up.  And this is why I would love to give this game to the kids at the program I work.

I would like to take a stand and say that I think video games belong in school aged programs.  I’d like to stand up in defense of them, and say that they are not the terrible, horrible, world ending things that some people.  I think they can actually be used as education tools.

I will start off by saying, however, that not all video games are appropriate for children and not all video games have useable learning opportunities in them.  Take another favourite game of mine: Left 4 Dead.  While I could try and make the case that it does teach team work and cooperation, it also features gory gameplay that is pretty much just running around shooting zombies.  This obviously would not be a good fit for educational setting.  Some games are simply too violent or feature gameplay which just is not acceptable.

The center I work at in Ottawa has a Nintendo Wii game system in almost every room in the program (the children are grouped together in rooms based on age).  The game systems are not always turned on.  They are pulled out for rewards, when the weather is terrible, or when the staff thing the children would enjoy it for a little while.  Mario games are very popular, and it’s not too uncommon to see 4 children playing the same Mario game together.  Occasionally there are fights as to who gets to play and when, but that is where the learning happens.  This is a common resource that all of the children want to use.  They need to learn to share, to take turns, to wait and to watch.  Using the Wii is a privilege, and they have learned that it is something which needs to be shared.

So, social skills are used.  Kids not only need to cooperate to have access to the machine, but they also need to cooperate in game.  Some games are co-op and require the children to work together to achieve a common goal.  They must work together, or they will lose.

Literacy is involved.  Often times games will have a fair amount of text that needs to be decoded.  Not only that, it has been argued that video games present a new type of literacy.  There is some merit to this idea.  Just like any other literacy, it requires certain skills and knowledge to be able to use video games.  To properly manipulate a digital avatar on a screen doesn’t just happen overnight.  It’s a skill like any other.

Problem solving is involved.  Without something to solve, without some sort of obstacle to overcome, there isn’t really a game.  There must be some challenge to it.  There have been studies coming out linking video game use to increased problem solving skills.

There has been a trend the past couple of years to incorporate movement into video games.  The Wii system features motion controls and the Xbox has the Kinect.  Both allow you to move the controller or use your body to play games.  In fact, there are some games based entirely on movement.  One of the most popular games with the children I work with is Just Dance.  In this game, you hold the controller and mimic the dance moves from the game.  Here is a video showing what this looks like.

Now imagine that same scene with a room full of children around grade 1 to 2.  Even those without controllers are dancing too.  Co-ordination, rhythm, body awareness, being active… none of these are bad thing.  Bundle it all together with fun to boot!

Now it is starting to sound like developmental domains: social-emotion, literacy, cognitive, physical.

Do I think video games belong in every program?  Not necessarily.  Do I think video games replace time tested things as dramatic play, wooden blocks, and books?  Certainly not!  What I do feel, though, is that to the creative educator video games can become another tool for learning.  Whether that means building a cottage at the bottom of the world, saving the princess (or prince!) in a tower, or dancing your heart out, I think video games have something to offer.

How to Survive an ECE Placement

For all 1st year and 3rd year ECE students, something magical is about to happen this semester!  Fresh from our time spent with family and food, batteries completely recharged, we return to school bright eyed and bushy tailed for a new semester of learning and excitement!  But what’s this?  Something is different this semester?

This semester we all go on placement!  Huzzah!

For you first years, don’t worry too much.  Placements aren’t as scary as they sound.  Since I already have my college diploma in ECE, I’ve completed three placements already.

I will try to provide some sort of tips and suggestions for surviving placements.  Some might seem common sense, some might sound strange, but hopefully a trick or two will help.

Dress Appropriately

This might seem like common sense, but common sense isn’t always common.  One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from directors in programs is the clothing that some students wear.  No one, I repeat no one, wants to see your underwear.  Remember: you’re there to work, and your clothing should reflect that.

Also, I cannot stress this enough, if you’re going to be outside with the kids be winter ready.  That means boots, jacket, hat, gloves or mittens, and possibly even snow pants.  You need stuff that is okay to get wet and dirty.  You will want clothes that will let you get down and play with the kids if you need to.

Don’t be afraid to look silly

Another potential no brainer, but you’d be surprised.  Some people (not me) are shy about looking strange around others.  This doesn’t go too tell when working with children, however.  Sometimes they will want to play with you, sometimes you’ll have to dance, and sometimes you might even need to sing!  You need to find a balance between being a professional and being entertaining with the children.  If you are too stiff the children won’t find you real, if you are too silly the children won’t take you seriously.

SCIENCE!

Even just milk, food colouring, and soap can create an exciting science experiment

Every placement I have been on I have always included some sort of science activity.  It doesn’t matter the age or the group, I always include science.  Keep in mind that doesn’t necessarily mean getting complicated, expensive, or dangerous.  There are tons of experiments that children love that you can do with nothing more than the stuff you find in your kitchen.  Take some time to research some simple experiments that are developmentally appropriate for your group and impress everyone!

Get to know the parents

I have always found parents to be the hardest part of working with children.  Ultimately both you and the parents want what is best for the child (in theory), but that doesn’t always mean you all see eye to eye on what is the best thing for the child.  Even though you’re only going to be with these children for a couple of months, get to know the parents.  Introduce yourself.  Be friendly.  Set them at ease.  Engage them in some small, polite conversation.  I always try and learn at least one thing about each parent when I am somewhere new.  This forces me to engage them, and get to know them a little bit.  Parents who feel comfortable with their children’s educators and caregivers are more likely to become involved with the program.  That’s a good thing.

Be Flexible

Children are not aware of how your activity plans are supposed to go.  As long as they have a good time, they really don’t care what the original intent was.  If you find that the children are focusing on something different than you expected… shift gears and follow it.  Go with their interests.  Follow what they like, and be willing change your plans as needed.

Also remember: If you do not complete your activity, if things change, if you miss circle for one day because they are completely engaged in something else… the world will not end.

One final suggestion…

Go Back to Baby

This was the biggest suggestion my supervisor Issie ever gave me on any of my placements.  Here’s the idea:

You have a child.  For whatever reason you want to see how they are developing in different domains.  Maybe you have an issue, maybe you have a concern, or maybe you’re just trying to figure out what would be developmentally appropriate for your planning.  Rather than comparing the child to what you think they should be able to do, go back to baby.  Start at the bottom of the developmental milestones, and work your way up.

This does two big things for you.  First of all it can be much easier.  Rather than trying to pick a skill or level of development they think they should have achieved, you go back to the basics and work your way up.  Simply stop when can no longer observe demonstrations of development.

The second is that is allows you to focus on what the child CAN do, rather than what the child CANNOT do.  Child development is a continuum.  A baby doesn’t just suddenly stand up perfectly straight and go running around.  There are lots of little skills that need to be developed along the way that lead walking.  Going back to baby allows you to see what skills and abilities they have developed, and stop when you’ve reached their current level.  Focusing on what they are able to do will help plan how you will help they reach the next level of development rather than looking at what went wrong and how are you able to fix it.

Placement isn’t as scary as you might think it is.  Just remember that both your faculty advisor and your field advisor are there to help you succeed.  Be flexible, use what you’ve learned about children and child development, and you’ll be sure to succeed!

Non Standard Child Care

George Stroumboulopoulos interviewed Margaret Atwood a while back. They discussed the importance of libraries and he mentioned that his mom raised them on her own and when she needed to go to a job interview she would leave him and his sister at the library.

Whether you would leave your children at the library or not, when you’re a parent there are times that you need to get a bit creative with childcare. I think that parenting while you’re a student has unique challenges for childcare. Daycare systems centre on the Monday to Friday work week and our schedules are different. So even if you’re lucky enough to get spot (and if you’re really lucky, a subsidized spot!) it may not cover the times that you need child care.

For us, we had a few barriers to accessing child care. Having three kids makes traditional child care very expensive, not to mention that it would be nearly impossible to find one place able to take all three. We don’t have family nearby, we don’t have limitless money to hire a nanny, and our schedule is too sporadic for professional babysitters.

Our solution has been to manage our schedules so that one of us is always at home with the kids. It has been stressful, but it has worked . . . most of the time. There have been a few times when schedules conflict and we find ourselves tossing out ideas just hoping that one will work. Here are some that we have relied on in the past:

1)      Take the kids to class. When I returned to school my daughter was 8 months old. She has attended more university level classes than most first year students. My partner, doing a music degree, has been on stage many times with her snuggly secure in a sling. It’s not ideal, but when it’s a choice between skipping class or leaving your children at home to change their own diapers, sometimes you have to say “no” to both options. Now that there are 3 of them, we split it up. I take the preschooler and he gets a pair of toddlers. It sounds uneven, but it’s amazing how many people will help a man with pair of chubby identical twins. He has it easy, really.

2)      Babysitting trade. With the Goose [what is this?] I did a babysitting trade with another mommy. This worked well because my daughter got a playmate and I got free childcare. This no longer works for us. No one with even one child wants to take on my three. If we’re really stuck we’ll split the kids up among friends, but that means that for one day of babysitting I now have two or three favours to repay.

3)      For-fee drop in centres. There are many drop in centres that are free for parents to go to with their children. Over the past couple of years several have opened that charge a fee for using their facilities. These centres often also offer child minding. Although they are not less expensive than hiring a sitter, they are great for last minute child care. Plus they are fun for the kids.

My wee ones are far too small to be left at the library, but I sympathize with the sentiment. When parents in Toronto who have financial security will still lament about problems accessing childcare – those of us trying to squeak by on scholarships and OSAP have to get creative.

Confessions of a Male ECE

I have a terrible confession to make.  Please make sure you’re sitting down while reading this.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Okay.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Now, I hate to break this to you… but I, Daniel Gosson, Early Childhood Educator… am a man.

Yes, I know.  It was shocking for me too when I found out.  It was strange for me to realize that I can both be a male and still be comforting, nurturing, and compassionate with small children.  I can feed young children, I can change diapers, and I can sit around a circle and sing songs about elephants and spider webs.  In short, my gender hasn’t been a hindrance to me in this field.  Not for the quality of my work, anyways.  It has been an issue for a few others though.

My first night class at Algonquin College was an interesting experience.  The teacher opened our child development class with a bunch of questions to engage the students in little debates.  They usually were ethical dilemmas that we might run into in the field such

as what would you do if a parent showed up smelling like alcohol, or if a parent not authorized to pick up their child attempts to pick up their child.  The last discussion topic given was this: are men as good caregivers as women?  I put up my hand showing I felt that men are indeed as good caregivers as women, and almost every other person in the class put up their hands to say that they felt that men are not in fact as good caregivers as women.  I was the only male in the room.

Luckily for me, I have one of those personalities that will not let me back down from something.  I’m like a dog with a bone, and I will not let go.  My classmates were telling me that men are not as dependable as women, that men do not have the work ethic that women do, that mothers are far more caring than fathers, and that men working with

young children are just creepy as they are all gay or pedophiles.  I managed to keep up my end of the debate, but when the entire class is against you, you’re fighting a losing battle.

After the class the teacher pulled me aside and thanked me for keeping up my side of the argument.  She herself was a director for a centre and told me that she likes hiring men.  She said she felt that because men

constantly felt challenged when they were in this field, they owned up to the pressure and really shined when working with children.  She also mentioned that because ECE is a very woman dominated field, boys often do not have someone to look up to and connect with, and having at least one man (it’s usually only one man per centre) provides you with that.

Photographic proof of my having been in a daycare

I’ve worked in places where I was the only male staff member.  I’ve had a girl run away from me back to her mother when she saw me at a community outreach play group, I’ve had more people than I can count tell me how ‘nice’ it is to see a guy working in a daycare, and I’ve been to a centre where the men’s washroom was actually used as a storage space (I had to make sure people knew I was going to the washroom or else I would have unexpected visitors).  I’ve met some very interesting men in the field too though.  I’ve met male kindergarten teachers, male ECEs, even a male daycare director.

The centre I work at the most (and hopefully will be working at over the summer break) has a male director, at least one male in each of the four rooms, and most of the supply staff are all male as well.  I know you’re probably expecting me to say that a unicorn is the program assistant and that the playground is in Narnia, but this place really does exist.  Whether it is because of the influence of the director or because there are so many men working in this program, it has a very different feel to it from most programs I have worked at.  While there are still more women than men who work at this centre, the imbalance is not nearly as pronounced as most other programs.

I really am passionate about the ECE field, and can’t think of anything I’d rather do than work with young children.  I firmly believe we need to have more males in the field, and I have a whole list of ideas on how to attract and keep guys working as ECEs (more pay would be pretty close to the top).  I have noticed, while looking around in my classes, that I am in fact not the only guy!  I hope that these other guys stay in the ECE field, and help inspire some other boys to maybe consider becoming an ECE.

I understand and accept that in order to be treated as I want to be treated in this field I will probably have to work a little harder than many of the women ECEs out there.  I know that for the rest of my career I will have to deal with suspicion, and I’ll have to work hard to show just what a wonderful person I am.  Don’t worry, I’m up to the task.  I can do it.  I’m a proud male ECE, hear me roar.