Creating a sense of belonging

Over the last 26 years, Dr. Monique Sedgwick, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences, has worked in a variety of rural and urban hospitals as a staff nurse and hospital adminstrator.

Sedgwick began teaching undergraduate nursing students in 1990 and has since developed an avid interest in undergraduate nursing students' experience of preceptorship in the rural setting. Included in this broad research area is the notion of belonging, student professionalization and the rural hospital team's impact on the student experience and socialization.

"Becoming a professional, registered nurse is as much about joining that community as it is about learning the technical skills of what nurses do," Sedgwick says.

Unlike their urban counterparts who are often working within a single nursing unit, she explains that rural hospital nurses must be "expert generalists" who can provide nursing care in diverse medical, surgical and emergent situations.

Rural hospitals often lack specialized medical resources, requiring all health-care practitioners to band together to offer patients the best care possible, Sedgwick explains. For fourth-year students completing their preceptorships – in which they work alongside a registered nurse – working in a rural hospital offers a steep learning curve, as well as a unique opportunity to be part of a tightly knit health-care team.

Students' feeling of belonging has emerged as a cultural theme from the data she's already collected and appears to be a key ingredient to their success in the preceptorship. This doesn't surprise Sedgwick, since this is important for all nurses.

"I think it is very important for nurses to connect with each other and with all members of the team," she says. "It's a very stressful job, and nurses need to be able to confer and consult with each other, so the best patient care is provided."