McMaster University

McMaster University

Nurse wins fellowship to inject caring back into health care

By Amanda Boundris

Janet Lovegrove

Janet Lovegrove knows first-hand the struggles with burnout, perfectionism, workplace absenteeism, and compassion fatigue that are common in nursing.

She has seen good nurses leave the profession early. In fact, she was one of them, having left formal health care in 1999 after 17 years.

Fortunately, she also knows how to overcome these issues.

The McMaster lecturer and recent graduate (M.Sc. 2011) from the School of Nursing (SON) has earned a prestigious fellowship as part of the Associated Medical Services (AMS) Phoenix Project. To that end, she is working to share a successful program with faculty to ensure nursing students learn how to take better care of themselves, and in turn, better care of their patients.

The goal of the AMS Phoenix Project is to resurrect caring in health care. The idea is that health professionals provide the best care when they are able to balance human compassion and technical expertise.

"Compassion is one of the most important qualities in a caring relationship, particularly with a patient, but we have to have it for ourselves first," said Lovegrove. "Being hard on yourself takes away from how effective you can be."

She is one of seven fellows from universities across Ontario that make up the inaugural group for the 2012-2013 academic year.

"Through their work, the cohort of fellows will help build a network of supporters within their regions to advance humane, compassionate, person-centred care and to understand and address the hidden curricula that can work against such care," said Dr. Brian Hodges, AMS Phoenix Project Lead, in a news release.

Lovegrove has received $25,000 from AMS, matched by the McMaster SON, to undertake her project: Understanding Self-Care in Nursing: Implications for Health, Well-Being, and Performance. The goal is to help nursing faculty initiate and integrate the practice of meaningful and sustained self-care in students’ educations and careers.

Her focus stemmed from a research project funded by the School’s Nursing Education Research Unit (NERU), where students explained "how they feel hard-hit by the demands of the program and how they don’t know how to take care of themselves," said Lovegrove.

According to her, the solution is exploring key concepts from a 16-week educational program called Life Process Education, developed by Canadian educator Viola Fodor, which involves self-awareness exercises.

There are three phases to the project. The first is full-day workshops to be held on October 4 and December 7, encouraging nursing faculty to explore meaningful self-care for themselves. Phase 2 will have six faculty members go through the program, guided by Fodor herself.

"Faculty will participate in a process of self-exploration and personal growth, facilitated in the context of transformative thinking, and look at how it will fit into their lives and the lives of their students," said Lovegrove.

In Phase 3, Lovegrove will lead an interdisciplinary team to determine how to integrate self-care concepts into McMaster’s undergraduate nursing curriculum.

"This program is different. It’s a sound, practical approach that provides the 'how' for students to take care of themselves so they can become compassionate, wise, innovative, resilient and strong," said Lovegrove. "What we’re going to be implementing is a holistic approach, looking at the body, mind and spirit."

For more information on the AMS Phoenix Project and the upcoming workshops, please contact Janet Lovegrove at
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