Queen’s University students and alumni from the School of Nursing are resorting to Instagram to share “experiences of discrimination and emotional abuse” while in the program.
The page @queensunursingalum provides an outlet for alumni and current students to share their stories in an effort to raise awareness and change the environment at the School of Nursing.
According to the administrator and founder of the Instagram page, who wished to remain anonymous, the group was created to actively seek out other students who had similar experiences, and to ensure they didn’t feel as ostracized and helpless as they did. Despite their pleas for change, they have yet to see any meaningful progress made.
“When I was a student in the Queen’s School of Nursing, my mental health plummeted as a direct result of how my clinical instructors treated me. I was made to feel that I was somehow inadequate and incapable of becoming a nurse,” the page creator said.
“I figured that if the school started getting the negative attention it deserves, it would have no choice but to address its issues,” they added.
They said that despite their experiences, “many of the instructors are kind and compassionate, who genuinely want to help students grow,” but the system in which they work actively prevents them from being fair instructors and evaluators.
“I hope the clinical instructors can recognize that these issues are the fault of the system they’re working in rather than their own and that the students and alumni know this,” they added.
The page also details accounts of alleged discrimination against Nursing students and to patients more broadly. One anonymous poster said: “As a [Person of Colour] to other people of colour who are thinking of going to the Queen’s School of Nursing: do not go.” The individuals describes persons of colour being put on remedial, and Clinical Instructors propagating false stereotypes about Indigenous people.
“I thought there was something inherently wrong with me or that I wasn’t trying hard enough, but my quality of life shot up the moment I left Queen’s. It’s not you – it’s the toxic environment,” the anonymous post added.
In a response to YGK News, Erna Snelgrove-Clarke, Vice-Dean of Queen’s Health Sciences and the Director of the School of Nursing, confirmed that they are aware of the presence of the anonymous instagram account.
“As faculty and staff of the School of Nursing, we are aware of the anonymous Instagram account that raises concerns about student and alumni experiences in the School of Nursing. The content in the account highlights several issues, many of which we have addressed or are addressing, including hiring a wellness coach and an embedded mental health counsellor, with plans in place to hire an additional counsellor,” said Snelgrove-Clarke.
With respect to the systemic issues in the School of Nursing, Snelgrove-Clarke shared that “we have a strategy to address some of the systemic issues highlighted in the account. This includes changing the structure of clinical learning plans to enact focused learning pathways and clinical evaluations.”
Despite the program’s commitment to act on these experiences, the founder of the page says that the mental health resources the school provides are band-aid solutions to the problems they are creating.
Another critical factor shared by the Instagram account is that the clinical evaluations are entirely subjective without any specifically outlined goals that students need to meet to pass or not meet to fail. Clinical instructors are human- they can only grade some students objectively and fairly with specific criteria. Each instructor is a nurse with experience, leading them to prioritize different aspects of nursing practice.
“All students in clinical placements are always on edge and nervous to uncover what their instructor will prioritize that day. Wellness workshops and mental health resources cannot and will not fix this,” they added.
Prior to the Instagram page, similar allegations were made through a poster campaign around the Queen’s University campus and asked students to submit claims through the improper acts policy at the school. However, the director of the School of Nursing denied the claims and said the statements on the poster were “extremely misleading and false.”
Since the Instagram page was opened in December, the page has over 166 posts which detail student and alumni experiences in the program. The page has garnered over 700 followers.