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Nursing at McMaster University

Amy (Year 2)


What did you wish you knew before going to your university? What made you choose this institution over all others? What are advantages and disadvantages of your institution or campus? List any advice for incoming first-year students about your university.

I chose this institution over others because it's not too far from home and I am able to go home every 2-3 weeks. I love the campus because it's very walkable! We have a more self-directed approach to learning as well as courses tailored so that it can be applied to real life situations (problem-based learning is what we call it). One thing I did wish I knew was how fast paced everything is! Though it's more fast paced, I realized it made me more productive because I loved what I was learning. University is a daunting experience but it was nothing I couldn't handle.

What did you wish you knew before choosing your specific program? What are the advantages and disadvantages of your program? List any advice for incoming first-year students about your program of study.

I was definitely not expecting nursing to be so content heavy and intense. You're thrown into a community placement within the first month of school, many of my friends and I dealt with people/patients who had many different cognitive abilities. It was very challenging but I loved the whole experience and it really pushed me and helped me learn how to deal with people of different backgrounds and abilities (which is important as a nurse). We also have Standardized Patients which are paid actors who act as patients and we conduct assessments on them and get to practice on them. I love the way my program is laid out, many courses correspond with each other and you really see how the program is tailored to help you strive as a nurse. For example, if I was learning about the GI system in Anatomy, we would also be learning about how to do abdominal assessments in Clinical and learning about food metabolism in Biochemistry! It really completed a lot of knowledge gaps and you can really see how theory can be applied to real life situations. A disadvantage to the program however is that your nursing tutors come from different backgrounds, so even though you are covering one topic, your peers might be learning slightly different things than you.

What was your favourite university experience?

The friends I made and the support we offer each other in times of stress (midterm season and finals). It was fun because the libraries would be open 24 hours and you can just study and talk to your friends the whole day in the library.

What was your least favourite university experience?

At my placement, I encountered a psych patient (which I did not learn how to deal with, nor was I notified he was a psych patient). He was 1:1 with a security guard for 24 hours a day, I entered his room and he grabbed the back of my neck. I was not hurt and he did not choke/suffocate me, but I was definitely very scared. The nurses and doctors on the floor helped me and taught me how to deal with him afterwards (though I wish they had taught me before the incident happened).

What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?

My program is so content heavy! I would have to say Anatomy and Physiology was the most challenging course. First year nursing students were put in the same class as second year Health Science, third year iBioMed and Midwifery! We went through so much content within the whole year. Clinical was also very different because in first year we are in the simulation lab (second year onwards you're in the hospital) and it's a small group of 8-10 students in your group. We really got to know each other and that was really the key to success since the course is structured so differently than any other course. Working out our differences and recognizing how knowledge gaps were super important. Studying for exams definitely took a while to get used to, it's trial and error and I think overall, 1st semester is all about learning how to learn and study.

What was your favourite course and why?

My favourite course was actually Clinical (Nursing 1I02/1J02) and A+P (HTHSCI 1H06A/B)! I loved my small group tutor and she was so knowledgeable. I loved hearing her stories about her patients and her experiences as a nurse. Anatomy was also great because it was so detailed but I learned so much about everything in the human body.

Additional Comments

Nursing specifically is planned out very nicely and we get placements in every unit so that we have a general idea of what we like. First year, we get our community placements, usually this is a LTC home or a place where you work with those with differing cognitive abilities like dementia or those in poverty. Second year you have a surgical placement (the OR and post-op) and a medicine placement (you switch each semester). Third year you get more acute placements which can range from trauma to pediatric to maternity and etc. Fourth year you can choose your placement if your GPA is high enough! Also the grading system in McMaster is on a 12 point scale.

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