uOttawa School of Nursing answers the call during the pandemic

Posted on Wednesday, May 4, 2022

two nursing students talking to each other in the lab

National Nursing Week runs from May 9 to 15, with the theme #WeAnswerTheCall. This Gazette highlights the contribution uOttawa nurses and nursing students have made over the past year.

During the pandemic, uOttawa undergraduate nursing students, as well as students in the graduate nurse practitioner program, have provided care on the front-lines.

Paula Forgeron, professor at the School of Nursing says, “When other students and (professors) were able to study in the safety of their homes, nursing students and their clinical (professors) continued to travel to clinical placements throughout Ottawa and the surrounding communities.”

During the first wave of the pandemic, the University’s clinical partners (such as the Ottawa and Montfort hospitals) urgently needed help for their nursing staff. Our students were there.

For many graduate students and all registered nurses, overtime became the norm. All hands on deck were required to care for patients, families and communities.

Kristina Ma, a nursing doctoral student, says, “I found myself needing to step away from my doctoral studies to focus full time on the COVID-19 response in correctional institutions. I took a leave of absence from my studies for almost a year, largely to protect myself from burn out and fatigue.”

Ma adds, “While I don’t regret taking on this role, as it has been both challenging and rewarding work, I’ve had to renegotiate and adapt my doctoral studies as a result.”


The research-intensive School of Nursing has a national and international reputation for work that improves the health of patients, families and communities in all care settings. Professors continued to advance their research while supporting their graduate students, who were struggling with unprecedented clinical demands and challenging situations they were witnessing.

Some research work was conducted directly in response to the pandemic.

For example, with a 75% reduction in HIV testing due to health system closures, Professor Patrick O’Byrne enabled access to HIV testing during COVID with his “GetaKit.” Over 1,900 participants enrolled in the first 10 months. O’Byrne also expanded the GetaKit to include COVID-19 self-testing.

Dr. Josephine Etowa and her multi-site research team received several grants to find particular solutions for African, Caribbean and other Black Canadians, groups disproportionally affected by COVID-19.


The School of Nursing, like other units, quickly moved teaching online.

Led by Natalie St. Jacques, a team of simulation learning experts working with professors completely re-organized experiential learning in the University’s Skills and Simulation Centre in record time.

Professors and staff not only created online lab modules for basic demonstration, but also designed Blitz Days (intensive events with low student to professor ratios) to support hands-on learning before students returned to clinical training.

Professor Jane Tyerman received grants to create interactive virtual simulation modules for staff nurses, student nurses, educators and other health-care professionals. Over 20 simulation modules available in both official languages were designed for students who needed to learn while social distancing. One of these modules, on assessment and the use of personal protective equipment, has been downloaded by over 2.5 million users within and outside Canada.

Largest Francophone international nursing conference

This fall, for the first time, the largest Francophone international nursing conference will be in Ottawa, presented by the Secrétariat international des infirmières et infirmiers de l’espace francophone, in partnership with the Montfort Hospital.

Dr. Michelle Lalonde, an associate professor at the School of Nursing and a researcher at the Montfort’s Institut du Savoir, chairs the scientific committee.

The University of Ottawa School of Nursing, ranked seventh in Canada and in the 51-100 top nursing schools globally, is 89 years old and has been on the forefront of nursing education and scholarship since it was established.

Back to top