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Student Finds New Path to Learning Post-September 11

Kelly McInerney had the will, and the School’s new distance-learning technology provided the way, to paraphrase an old saying in very modern terms. McInerney, who resides in Vancouver, was packed up and ready to make her first weekly trip to Seattle, required of all students enrolled in distance-learning programs. When she arrived at the American border, however, she was "initially devastated" to find that new restrictions on foreign part-time students made it impossible for her to cross.

"I spoke with my member of the Legislative Assembly, and with the U.S. consulate," the post-master’s student reports, "But there was no way for me to legitimately cross."

Fortunately, distance-learning technology and the intervention of Ruth Craven, associate dean for educational outreach and community relations, paved the way.

"With the assistance of Dr. Craven, I am now very busy working towards a post-master’s nurse practitioner certificate," says McInerney, an emergency room nurse and mother of three. She uses new videotaping and videostreaming technology to access course work over the Web, and like most distance-learning students, stays in close e-mail contact with instructors. Craven also arranged for McInerney to take her clinical practicums in Vancouver using alumni or clinical faculty contacts.

Although McInerney says distance education provides its own challenges, such as "little contact with other students, minimal opportunity to dialogue and discuss course/practice issues, and some initial frustrations getting the system in place," she notes that it also has its compensations. "It has saved me eight hours per week in a car, challenged me to be organized and efficient, and forced me to let my needs be known to instructors."

McInerney also credits her husband, Patrick, and her mentor, Faith Forster, another graduate of the distance-learning program, for her success. "Faith is pioneering the role of a nurse practitioner at St. Paul’s hospital. Her passion for the NP role and her insight into what my learning needs are has been invaluable."

In addition to working as a nurse practitioner, McInerney also hopes to play a part introducing nurse practitioner education in British Columbia. She is working to develop NP competencies with the Registered Nurses Association of British Columbia.

McInerney’s experiences are an example of how new technology and creative approaches to education can address the current nursing shortage.