Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics

Reflections on the innovative use of storytelling to develop students’ leadership skills Part 4: Faculty Perspective

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PART4: Faculty Reflection

By Dr. Lynne Young
Professor, University of Victoria School of Nursing


Currently I teach nursing to undergraduate and graduate students. The course that we will be discussing is a graduate course offered to nurses who are studying to be nursing leaders that was offered last fall (2014). The purpose of the course is to explore the interface between organizational leadership and quality improvement and patient safety. Students in the course examine the impact of current organizations on the delivery of health care and the enactment of advanced practice nursing. Students complete both individual and group assignments: during group assignments the students have opportunities to practice leadership skills.

Video of Interview with Dr. Lynne Young, led by Chelsey Nelson & Tina Choi

In this session we will talk about one assignment in the course, an assignment that was a group assignment. Here the students were asked to work in pairs to learn from stories about nursing leaders providing leadership in pain care. Hearing or reading stories of leadership is known to be an effective strategy for teaching leadership. We selected the topic of pain care since pain care is a resistant health care issue, and nurses play a key role in ensuring quality pain care at all levels of care. The students were asked to engage a nurse leader from a specific setting in conversation so that she or he could share his or her story of addressing pain care. Students used these prompts:

“Can you tell me about a time where as a nurse leader you addressed a pain care or pain management challenge to improve the quality of care in your workplace?”
“What did you do? “
“What was that like for you as a nurse leader? “
“What key aspects of being a nurse leader did you draw on when in this situation?”
“What was the impact of your leadership in this situation?”

The students reflected on the story guided by these questions:

What is the key message of the story?
What struck you about this person as a leader?
What core leadership or quality improvement competencies were apparent in this story?

Through reflection on the leader’s story students were asked to identify strategies nurse leaders use to improve pain care.
The students summarized their findings and augmented them with information from the literature and prepared a four page executive summary that was then shared with the leaders.

The following is a summary of the questions asked by Tina Choi and Chelsey Nelson to promote reflection as Lynne shared her experience with teaching leadership skills in this way.

1) From your perspective as a Faculty Member/ Student/ Island Health’s Chief Nursing Officer/Nurse Leader please tell me about the lessons that you learned about the teaching of pain care to nursing students enrolled in a graduate leadership course using nursing leaders’ stories?

While many lessons were learned through this collaboration, a key insight is that such collaborations are powerful with regard to opening spaces for conversations about nursing care in such a way that those in nurses’ care benefit. From a practical perspective, it always takes time and careful consideration when planning such an innovation as there are institutional processes that need to be taken into account. Establishing connections early and keeping the relationships going with clear and timely communication enables the planning team to effectively navigate institutionally-based challenges.

2) From your perspective please tell me about the insights that you gained about how students acquire nursing leadership skills?

The connections between the students and the leaders was inspiring for students for example, one group wrote “Nurse leaders play a key role in the management of pain. Mr. Q is a wonderful example of a nurse leader committed to quality pain management. Education and a strong commitment to advocacy were key messages for effective pain management. One sensed that as Mr. Q shared his story with us that he was after all these years ‘still looking for those teachable moments’ and recognised that he had found one in the two of us.”

Another group focused on the IP nature of pain care writing “… interdisciplinary teamwork, specialized staff education and training, and repeated patient and caregiver education aimed at individualized assessment and pain management can reinforce patient centred care and yield better pain care outcomes for those dealing within palliative care situations.”
Further, in carrying out this assignment, the students acquired new knowledge about pain care, for example, the WHO Pain Ladder, key elements of assessing and managing pain, pharmacological management of pain and specific nursing considerations and thus are better prepared to become leaders in pain care.

3) What advice do you have for others about initiating or enriching university/health authority collaborations, based on your lessons learned?

Having a person such as Wendy Young whose role is to connect and lead such collaborations is imperative. Wendy is perfectly suited to this role and I thank her for her amazing contributions to our efforts to move nursing care forward to ever greater quality care.


Dr Lynne Young

Dr Young is a Professor in the University of Victoria School of Nursing.  Her areas of clinical focus are pain care and cardiovascular nursing with a specific focus on women and cardiovascular care and health promotion. As  Clinical Nurse Specialist in Acute Pain Care, she acquired an understanding of the complexities of pain care that led to her working with other health professionals to address the resistant issue of pain care through the development of a number of initiatives designed to support pain care including the formation of Pain BC. In addition Dr Young has written and conducted research in the area of teaching and learning.


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