Let’s make Northern Ireland Dementia Friendly TOGETHER.


By Stephanie Craig

Registered Nurse and PhD student working with a team of researchers at QUB to learn the experiences of people living with dementia in a Dementia Friendly Community.

We all must work together to support people with dementia to make Northern Ireland a Dementia Friendly Community. A place where people with dementia can feel safe and supported.

As a second-year nursing student at Queen’s University Belfast I found my niche in dementia research through an Alzheimer’s Society student scholarship. This gave me an inside into research, I was hooked from the start. This naturally led me into wanting a career in research where I could help more people, this led me nicely into my PhD studies at QUB.

Stephanie Craig

Every three seconds, someone in the world develops dementia and over 55 million people worldwide are living with dementia. Dementia is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide spectrum of progressive neurological illnesses, with over 200 subcategories. This disorder can affect people’s capacity to retain and absorb information, which can disrupt numerous daily activities of living such as dressing, cooking, driving, shopping, and telling the time. This indicates to us that a person with dementia may require more assistance in daily tasks from family, friends, children, or members of the community.

Through my PhD study I am going to be looking at dementia friendly community’s or DFCs and the experiences people with dementia have in these settings. A DFC is a place where people with dementia are recognised, valued, and supported. These places are key in helping people with dementia to live well and stay active members of their communities. Dementia friendliness is a worldwide initiative aimed at supporting people to live well, it is an ethos to assist people with dementia in achieving their maximum possible quality of life, remaining empowered, understanding their rights, and realising their full potential.

This 3-year study which began in October 2021  will see us working with people living with dementia from various charity groups in Northern Ireland such as Dementia NI and The Alzheimer’s Society. Our plan is to identify the impact DFCs have on the day- to- day lives of people living with dementia, uncover characteristics of interventions that may support people living with dementia and explore the possible facilitators and barriers to DFCs’ long-term sustainability.

We want to create awareness and help people realise their role within the community to help support people with dementia.  This starts with reducing the stigma and creating awareness within the public. I was part of a team of researchers aimed at improving dementia care. We developed a Dementia Awareness Game for adults and a Dementia Kids Awareness Game as we believe this encourages adults and children to view dementia in a more positive way, with the hope of assisting people in living well with dementia in the community.

We think by creating awareness of Dementia within the public we can actively help contribute to making Northern Ireland a Dementia Friendly Community for those living with Dementia. Let’s create awareness together- play the games and tell us what you think!

If you would like further infomation pleaseemail Stephanie at: scraig22@qub.ac.uk

My Top 10 tips for doing summative assessments on Canvas Quizzes



Dr Katherine MA Rogers

Student evaluations indicate that they like quizzing as a means of gauging their progress, revision and ongoing study.  As a Senior Lecturer in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, I have been using multiple choice questions (MCQs) in summative assessments for over 10 years.   

Running summative assessments remotely using Canvas Quizzes for the first time during the pandemic was daunting!  Since May 2021, I have successfully coordinated 1027 summative assessments taken in Canvas Quizzes, so as we accelerate towards another season of assessments, I thought it was timely to share my top 10 tips for using Canvas Quizzes in summative assessments: 

  1. Practice, practice, practice – for students and staff. I spent a lot of time playing around with the Quiz function.  For staff this involves setting up Question Banks and Quizzes, and creating different types of questions.  For students – they should be encouraged to use the Quizzes to become familiar with the system in the exam setting.
  1. Know your assessment platform! Being very familiar with how Canvas Quizzes worked helped me to anticipate problems and answer student questions quickly. I am on first name terms with several of the excellent QUB Canvas Support Team!  I created a set-up checklist which helped me to ensure I had all parameters covered for my first official exam in Canvas Quizzes.
  1. Ask students what they would like. Based on the student feedback I set up several versions of a mock exam: timed and untimed, single attempt quiz and multiple attempts.  This allowed students to take ownership of how they used the Quizzes in their revision, study and exam preparation. 
  1. Provide plenty of guidance, through a variety of media, well in advance – checklists, screenshots, live videos (but keep these quite short). I have screencast videos of accessing the exam under exam conditions, navigating the system and how we review the exam – in real-time (while the exam is underway) and for post-exam moderation. The videos (linked below) are stored in Mediasite and I use them for all my modules. Students find these very useful as part of their preparation for the exam.  
  1. Be transparent with students – show them what we see and how we use the system for post-exam scrutiny (see point 4). 
  1. Mimic exam conditions in practice sessions. This also links with point 4.  Towards the end of the module, I gave surprise Quizzes in class that were scaled-down versions of the final exam (in terms of time and question number but with different questions). Students really liked these practice Quizzes and despite being a surprise, asked me to do more. 
  1. Keep a summative exam quiz unpublished for as long as possible – For security reasons, I left it until the day before to publish my first Canvas Quizzes exam; I also left it until the day before to link the Question Bank to the exam.  
  1. Put exam questions into a Question Bank and set up a new Question Bank for each new the exam. I am a hoarder, so I like the idea of always having the exact exam questions saved separately.  This way, you will always have a record of the questions for the specific exam sitting and it allows for precise statistical analysis of the cohort performance. 
  1. Keep an open channel of communication during the exam.  On the night before the first exam I had a brainwave: open a Teams meeting during the exam as a direct line of contact to me!  No one needed to use it for technical issues but several joined at the end to discuss the exam.  They were very positive about the reassurance it provided during the exam.  Obviously, this is irrelevant when holding exams on-campus, but it is an option for live, online remote exams.
  1. From the beginning of module, treat it the same as a traditional exam.  For staff, using Canvas Quizzes requires more pre-planning than a paper exam; students need to be in the mind-set that it is as “important” as any other assessment. 

This list is not exhaustive – needless to say, it was a steep learning curve… and I am still learning!  However, I would certainly not go back to other online quizzing platforms now, and when we get the new release of Canvas Quizzes, no doubt there will be more learning with that version. 

If you are thinking about using Canvas Quizzes for summative assessment and would like more advice, just get in touch – I am happy to share more detail of my experiences. 

Click these links to view my Mediasite videos (noted in point 4): How to access your final exam in Canvas and Video of exam moderation and scrutiny of exams in Canvas

For more information on QUB Canvas support: https://blogs.qub.ac.uk/digitallearning/canvas-for-staff/

If you are writing MCQs for Canvas Quizzes, perhaps you might like to join the forthcoming MCQ writing workshop on 24th March 2022? 

Gathering together


Gather: Offering A Superficial Novelty or Genuine Pedagogy Promise?

By Matt Birch and Helen Kerr


The QUB School of Nursing and Midwifery Staff Development Committee chaired by Dr Helen Kerr organise a biennial Staff Development Day to support all categories of staff in maximising their working role potential and to encourage time out from one’s routine work environment. Although typically facilitated at Riddel Hall, QUB, the Covid-19 restrictions in 2021 compelled committee member Matt Birch to devise a solution that would allow the event and activities to occur remotely.  Although lockdown had resulted in staff gaining varying degrees of exposure to traditional conferencing tools like MS Teams and Zoom, the Committee felt staff were so accustomed to this modality, that a new, engaging approach should be considered. It was for this reason that Matt developed a bespoke virtual conferencing environment using Gather.

What is Gather?

Although described as a web-conferencing platform, Gather is special, as it affords users the ability to build ‘physical’ 3D graphical spaces, where avatar representations of participants can interact with objects and other live participants, in much the same way as in popular quest games like World of Warcraft. This affordance for legitimate spatial exploration and meaningful interactivity was why the platform was favoured over conventional tools, as it allowed for the mimicry of “real-world” rules, such as having to approach people to start conversations and being intentionally responsible for moving oneself to certain locations to view or interact with certain things.

How Gather was used

Event content had been developed based on a survey, which asked staff to comment on what they wished to experience on the day. Although much of this preparation occurred prior to the event moving online, the inclusion of interactive whiteboards, podiums, and video projectors within the Gather environment added an immersive aspect to processing, thus helping those in attendance feel more like they were in an authentic classroom or conference setting. Efforts were even made to extend activities beyond the formal, through the inclusion of a yoga room, a treasure hunt, and a real working cinema. Most significantly, immersive activity was achieved while also retaining all the standard features of a traditional web- conferencing experience including instant messaging (IM), screen sharing, as well as webcam and microphone control. This meant that Gather afforded a healthy combination of familiarity and novelty, therefore, emphasising intuition, engagement, and challenge.

Over 70 staff attended, with the agenda including a Keynote presentation from Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell and other presentations from staff at QUB on positive mental health, connected learning and embedding the ICARE values to one’s professional roles. The day was topped off with a quiz and a staff family photo of everyone’s self-created avatars

Image Of Staff Family Photo

Staff reviews were unanimously positive with 39 completed evaluations, which demonstrated a score of 4.2 out of 5 in terms of how much staff enjoyed the platform, and 4.2 out of 5 for how much they enjoyed the event.

Some Considerations

Having run a critical eye over the platform, we did see some important considerations, rather than out and out limitations, although the absence of a platform native video recording tool should be remedied. Firstly, although Gather is free for activities for up to 25 people, a payment is necessary for larger groups. This payment is based on attendee numbers, which makes it reasonable for one-off events, however, this could become expensive if one wished to run an event over a series of days. There are technical considerations, as Gather seems to perform excellently well in Chrome but exhibits an array of glitches when accessed via other browsers, which is not great for students and educators who use tools like Microsoft Edge, Safari, and Firefox. There are socio-cultural considerations, in the sense that although staff were free to explore and chat with whomever they wished, some staff noted they felt anxious to speak, for fear of not knowing who might hear. This is understandable, given a year of becoming conditioned to always being attentive to whether one’s webcam or microphone is active within live calls. This leads to one final consideration, which is that although the avatar of a participant may be visible in a Gather environment, there is no guarantee the person controlling it is paying attention or is even still participating. This is reminiscent of students remaining logged into web-conferences, even after a lecture has concluded. This suggests spontaneous interaction may be the only way to verify attendance.

Implications For Teaching and Learning

Gather provides much potential. For instance, although Gather could be seen as one in an increasingly long line of platforms, its capacity to mimic the proximity related rules of the real-world within 3D-spaces provides genuine opportunities to exploit active learning that goes beyond the superficial. For example, scenario-based roleplaying could provide opportunities for authentic knowledge application activities.

Additionally, one’s ability to independently move around the Gather environment in ways not possible in conventional conferencing offers potential for heighten learner-centred activities. For instance, in a conventional web-conference, students typically wait to view or present a poster in some prescribed sequential order. In Gather, posters can be placed throughout a digital room, thereby granting students a heightened locus of control over which posters they wish to view and when. This may seem trivial but imagine how this heightened locus of control could be exploited in the creation of WebQuests.

In fact, Gather’s free integrated map builder tool, as well as the platforms library of pre-built environments, means that educators are only limited by their own imagination, as any environment design, can be mapped out and produced with a little time, effort, and creative flair. Finally, although somewhat limited in customisation options, the fluidity of the avatar creation tool may also offer benefits to learning activities where an instantaneous or continuous change of appearance is important. 

Gather Map Building Tool


So, does Gather offer superficial novelty or genuine pedagogy promise? We think the latter, but you must decide for yourself. The key to successfully implementing platforms like Gather is letting the learning requirements, purpose and expected goals determine what product or process (if any) should be implemented. Gather may not be the solution to all your online learning needs but it certainly aligns well with plenty of pedagogic use cases.  


Where there is a student nurse…there is an idea !


Laura Creighton & Alison Smart  

Innovative Student Nurses

Alison: I think as nurses and student nurses we are in the best position to be change agents and implement innovations to enable better practice, facilitating better patient care. Nurses in practice, within education and as leaders problem solve everyday and find excellent solutions to difficult and complex problems. When clinical practice is questioned, you may hear “that’s the way it is done” or when an alternative is suggested that “it doesn’t make sense”. This could be in relation to service delivery and operational systems within the hospital. With this in mind and the new curriculum on the horizon I was chomping at the bit to ensure the nurses of the future are encouraged to be innovators. Laura joined the team and we got our thinking hats on for a creative way to get the students to channel their inner Deborah Meade and the Dragons Den SNOM style was born.

Dragons Den was born

Laura: After a decade of clinical nursing, I cannot begin to express how refreshing it was to see the concepts that our students came up with.

We are a dynamic workforce, with a multi-faceted role that keeps on expanding. In the COVID-19 global pandemic, nurses, midwives and students in practice stepped up to the mark, reorganising services, so an increased number of patients could be cared for, with a drive to push through to better times. Our year one undergraduate nursing innovations project aims to inspire students to have the confidence to suggest changes in practice and education.

Nurse, midwives and students stepped up during the pandemic

Our first year students had three short weeks in placement due to the pandemic and threw themselves into every opportunity. Their innovative ideas as part of the SONM Dragon’s Den challenge, spanned from patient improvement projects, to how to improve their educational journey. Some ideas were already in practice but the students brought a fresh perspective and suggested new approaches.

We used tutorial classes to brainstorm innovations. The students were put into break out rooms and given 30 minutes to develop their idea and a selection for the final was decided on their pitch to fellow classmates. The final of the SONM Dragon’s Den was a sixty second pitch on the innovation. We had four judges Professor Donna Fitzsimons, Professor Karen McCutcheon, Maggie Bennett and Doris Corkin.

The top three innovations

1. Pre-placement visits
2. Cultural awareness App
3.Coloured vital signs equipment for children
School of Nursing and Midwifery Dragons Den Season 1 winners

The Winning Team:

Naomi Webb, Catherine Williamson, Fionnuala Whyte, Anna Whiteside and Evelyn Whithorn (AD10- Year 1 Undergraduate Nurses)

Taking part in the innovations project was energising and enlightening. As a group we appreciated the competitive nature of the challenge and enjoyed hearing others’ ideas across the cohort. Our innovation was centred on student familiarisation for practice and a product of a lengthy video call. We considered the issues we had faced so far, on our nursing journey and agreed the importance of being prepared for clinical practice. We focussed on how student anxiety could be alleviated prior to placement, through an introduction to the area.

We are delighted we won the innovations project! Our idea has been taken on board and will be implemented by the school of Nursing and Midwifery here at Queen’s University. We are thrilled by our achievement. It only takes one small idea to make a difference and anyone can do this. We feel confident to suggest more positive innovations in the future as nurses.

Thank you for reading. If you would like further details please get in touch, we are happy to share our experience.

Alison A.smart@qub.ac.uk and Laura laura.creighton@qub.ac.uk

Alison Smart is a lecturer (Education) in Adult Nursing and module leader in Health Assessment. Alison’s clinical background is within neuro-critical care and stroke.

Laura Creighton joined the School of Nursing and Midwifery as lecturer (Education) in adult nursing at Queen’s University Belfast in August 2020. As an intensive care nurse she continues to work clinical shifts at the weekend, through the pandemic.


All in this together….staying connected


In this post Pauline Cardwell, Year 2 Lead and Lecturer in Children’s and Young Peoples Nursing, reflects on the difference connection can make.

It is hard to believe we are almost 10 months into this pandemic event, which has caused each and every one of us to review and reflect on every aspect of our lives, personally, professionally and as a community.  This evolving and uncertain period of time has challenged us as individuals and has also afforded us some real opportunities to create and deliver on new ways of working, providing engaging and inspiring learning activities, whilst being mindful of the human cost individually, whilst ultimately remembering we are all trying to navigate this difficult and unpredictable time.

Essence of nursing

Nursing has always prided itself on being a caring and compassionate career, where at the heart of its DNA is the privilege to care for individuals and communities at vulnerable, challenging, difficult and joyous times in their lives. This act of caring is the essence of ‘what we do’, to hold the hand of someone who is frightened or scared of the journey ahead or celebrating the end of a successful treatment plan, a newfound independence, a recovery made, or a new life delivered. Whilst this may be the essence of nursing it can sometimes require a heavy payment. We have all seen so many images of those heroes after a demanding, draining and sometimes devastating shift and still we come back and do it all again.

Every one of us has paid the cost in a plethora of ways. The worry of supporting each other, hoping we can deliver a curriculum fit for the future and as educationalists caring for our students. I experienced this acutely one day in November where I unexpectedly was contacted by a student in distress, they were overwhelmed at the acuity and challenging clinical environment they were currently working in. The student was upset, tearful and visibly distressed, the wise ward manager had asked them to take a break and suggested taking a walk outside to assist in reducing the stress they were feeling.

The power of connection

It was a bright, clear day and I reassured the student I was here to listen and asked them to explain what they were feeling. I felt the need to assist the student to achieve some grounding and perspective of what they were feeling, and I asked them to describe what they could see and if there was any greenery around. The student allowed me to view their surroundings and I noted a tree nearby and asked them to do something for me, I asked the student to go to the tree and rest their palm against the trunk of the tree. Initially, they were reluctant to carry out the activity, I reassured them I was with them and encouraged them to go ahead and trust me. We then both closed our eyes and I asked them to focus on their breathing. I then began to talk quietly and calmly to the student asking them to consider how the tree had lost its leaves and looked ‘dead’ essentially but also consider that come spring the tree would bud again and burst into life once more. I noted their breathing patterned had calmed and their speech was not as rushed as previously. Eventually we concluded the conversation when the student felt able to return to their shift.

Making a difference to others

Reflecting on this event, I feel grateful I had the opportunity and privilege to support this student at such a personally vulnerable time for them. On further consideration I truly appreciate that this is truly a momentous time for our professions, we are courageous, we are caring, we are compassionate but ultimately, we are human. So, my wish for us all as we move forward and hopefully to a more ‘normal’ way of life is to; be kind to ourselves and others, be keen to learn, develop and progress and to be confident we are capable of delivering, growing and most of all making a difference for others.

#proudofourstudents #IloveNursing

Susan makes a reflective start to the New Year!


In this first post of the New Year, Dr Susan Clarke, in her role as module co-ordinator considers the value of reflection.

I’ve been enjoying the Friday ritual of reading Maggie and Iain’s Connected Learning blog so thought I might share some of my thoughts on the importance of reflection- not the students’ reflection, but our own reflective practice as educators, and specifically as module coordinators.

A record of real time feelings

Most of you know that I was one of, and am now solely, the module co-ordinator for EBN2. Most years, I keep a reflective diary on my experiences through the module. I do this for several reasons, primarily because my memory is really bad and I want to make sure when we come to run the module for the next intake that I know which bits need tweaked but also because it is a record of my real time feelings and reflections. We all internalise this, right? So I’m just putting my thoughts to paper.

Justifying the need for action

I don’t write reams of text and it mostly consists of bullet points, but I write notes to myself of what worked and what didn’t work and why that might be. The why is very important and I don’t think you remember that if you don’t write it as you experience it. Another important aspect is the action points- suggestions for what I can change that will address the problem. Again, too easy to ignore these suggestions if I haven’t made a note to myself of the “why” to justify the need for action. We are all busy and have competing priorities in this incredibly varied job we do so we could be forgiven for not instigating change if we didn’t need to!

This year, more than most, with the new curriculum, the move to online/remote delivery and the fact that EBN2 is now totally delivered in one teaching phase (will I even remember what a PICO is by the time it rolls around again never mind the nuances of timing the delivery of key messages?!), my ritual has been invaluable. Just a few moments at the end of each week to write my reflections meant that, when we had our debriefing meeting at the end of the module, I was able to identify key learning points for our team and to make suggestions for modifications when delivering it to the February cohort.

Another tool to maximise our teaching practice

This is an entirely new curriculum. We expect too much of it and ourselves if we think it will work perfectly straight out of the box so, dare I say it, evidence based modifications for future cohorts are not only necessary but essential to make it work as well as it can. We teach the students action cycles of plan, do, study, act and that can equally be applied to our education setting as to their healthcare practice. Combining our personal reflections with student feedback, external examiner feedback and team debriefings means we have a well-rounded view of our modules and is just one more tool in our armoury to maximise our teaching practice.

Iain and Maggie reflect on the development of the School of Nursing and Midwifery Blog


A blog was born

It was at a meeting of the Connected learning group that the idea of a blog to showcase our experiences with moving to a connected learning environment was first mooted. An off-the-cuff comment and our less than thought through response and this blog was born. At that stage neither of us had any experience in developing or running blogs.  This semester has been a steep learning curve.  Below we take some time to reflect on our experiences of the first semester.

One semester

Fifteen Posts

22 authors


A forum for colleagues to share good practice

Being connected is fundamental in nursing. It is that connectedness, both with ourselves and with the people and families that we are privileged to look after, that sets nursing and midwifery apart from our colleagues in other disciplines. We set out to provide a forum for colleagues to showcase good practice and to begin discussion and debate about how we move forward in an uncertain time. It was a way of us connecting with each other in the absence of the water cooler and kitchen. We hoped that people would learn from each other, and that some of the ideas you read might influence your practice going forward. Neither of us ever anticipated such a positive experience and level of engagement.

Developing digital communities, looking after yourself, moving classroom activities online and getting feedback from our students have all featured in the first 15 posts. There has been a wealth of learning and it has been a fantastic opportunity for reflection for us and, by way of example, with an average of over 36 reviews per day in the last fifteen days, it would appear that others are getting some benefit from it as well.

A vehicle to share creativity

For us though, it is the enthusiasm and warmth in the blog that has struck a chord. Colleagues and students have been offering ideas, posts and supportive comments throughout the semester. This is testament to the professionalism and creativity of the staff and students in the school. The School of Nursing and Midwifery have a lot to be proud of and this blog is a vehicle for highlighting that.

Increasing readership

The New Year brings new opportunities for the blog. The QUB Digital learning blog recently approached us asking to repost some of the blog posts with full recognition that the original was posted here. That will increase our readership and also further highlight the good work we do across the University. We invite you to stay connected with us,  by telling us about what you’re getting up to.

We would love to hear from you in 2021

Are you a creative teacher, or have you adopted something from a classroom to a digital setting? Perhaps you are a student and getting on the receiving end of what the staff are doing. Either way, we would love to hear from you. 

To contribute please email Maggie m.bennett@qub.ac.uk or Iain i.mcgowan@qub.ac.uk  at the School of Nursing and Midwifery.

Thank you

Iain and Maggie

Decorate your door/ Wall/ Space for Christmas


By Michelle Mullan

I need to start this blog with a disclaimer – at home I do not decorate until the middle of December, but in work…… a totally different story!

It all started 15 years ago in Elmwood Avenue

It has been a long-standing tradition in the unit I work in (Continuing Professional and Academic Development) that we put our tree up on the day before Belfast City Council hold their switch on.  We started this over 15 years ago when we worked in Elmwood Avenue and which we continued when we moved back into MBC and merged with our clerical colleagues in undergraduate nursing. This would normally be a big event around 16th November with ‘special guests’ to do the switch on and an opportunity for a coffee morning.  One year we actually had Frosty the Snowman and the man himself, Mr Claus, in attendance!  Our office has a large glass door and about 4 years ago we idly chatted about how we could turn it into the entrance to Santa’s Grotto, and we did!  There was a lot of brainstorming involved, plus some cardboard and a brick wallpaper, then came the challenge of erecting it!  Then a couple of years ago we thought it would be a good idea to turn this into a fundraising opportunity and encourage everyone in the School to decorate their doors for Christmas whilst donating money to a chosen charity.   Our grotto door was exempt because, well, it was just too good!!

Annual event

The Decorate your Door for Christmas campaign was so well received that we decided to roll this out annually.  How staff decorate their doors (or not!) is entirely up to them.  We have a vote for the winner who receives a trophy (one out of a bag of six from the pound shop, but prestigious nonetheless).   The fundraising from the campaign has gone to a cancer charity and Cruse Bereavement Care. 

Foodbank donations

Now, the School of Nursing and Midwifery is constantly evolving in all aspects of School life, so when one of the lecturers mentioned a reverse advent calendar – putting something in instead of taking out – I thought, why not!  To do this, we obviously had to have a collection point, and so the fireplace was born, complete with chimney, stockings and roaring (fake) flames!   Staff were asked to donate foodstuff for the foodbank and, thanks to the generosity of the School staff, we have been able to donate over 80kg of food to the foodbank in each of the last two years. 

More than ever in 2020 sections of our society are struggling and the work of charities is so important for many who may never have had to access them before. 

Christmas doors decorated in the SONM QUB

This year is a bit different

This year we are running a “Decorate your Door/Wall/Space for Christmas” and no fake backgrounds are allowed!  Staff have been asked to decorate the space behind them. I’m in my kitchen, but others are in home offices, craft rooms, playrooms, living rooms, bedrooms or dining rooms!  Some will go all out (OK, I will!) and others will throw a bit of tinsel over the door handle, and that doesn’t matter, it’s the taking part (and donating the money) that counts. 

Chosen charities

The chosen charities for 2020 will be the foodbank (because we cannot have a food collection) and Women’s Aid.  To enable this a PayPal pool was established and whilst I have not seen any evidence of decorating just yet, the contributions are coming in and that’s what is important. 

Thank you

I think it is timely to thank everyone who takes part every year. Some like to groan and complain and walk about muttering something about ‘bah humbug’ and ‘it’s too early’, some are all in and others just like to enjoy the craic, but everyone contributes something and that only emphasises the sense of community we have in our School which is fostered by our Head of School who has been so supportive of all our mad ideas!  Christmas in July anyone??

Please donate by 11th December 2020!

PayPal Pool – Decorate your Doors – Donation  

Michelle Mullan

Michelle has worked in the School of Nursing & Midwifery since the Colleges of Nursing integrated with Queens in 1997 and her role entails working in CPAD providing administrative support for all of the commissioned programmes and post reg Masters students both local and international. Outside of work Michelle is involved in archery and an Akela for a Cub Scout Group. 

Continuing Professional Development during COVID-19

‘Please remember many of us are working full time, trying to provide a service as well as studying”

I have always worked full time throughout my career, incorporating both work and education which can be challenging. Whether it’s an age thing but to me education should be conducted within university and not on-line. I firmly believe that you learn more within a classroom as it enables you to partake, ask relevant questions and gain knowledge and experience from both the lecturer and fellow colleagues. I don’t agree that this is achievable to the same standard when classes are online. 

My reason for this is as follows, 

I had never heard of Canvas until last year, even though I had completed a recent Intensive Care Nursing course in Queen’s University Belfast a few years previous. Technology constantly changes and unless you use it every day I feel you can fall behind very quickly.

I have worked in ICU and have trained hospital staff on how to use equipment, so I have excellent knowledge on medical devices however I don’t feel confident about Information Technology (IT), simply because I have very little interest! Believe it or not I actually like to communicate face to face, an art which I find sadly lacking in some nursing students and nurses today. To prepare for online classes during Covid-19, which I appreciate is unique and challenging time for all, I asked my NHS employer to ensure I had access to the required platform. Unfortunately my request could not be accommodated by the Trust and the platform could not be accessed from the Trust computers. This caused me a huge amount of stress at an already stressful time. Not only was I still providing a service during Covid-19, I was also anxious that I was going to miss out on valuable information required for my module and exam.  

After numerous conversations with my lecturer, who was very supportive, I was able to connect to the next class although very anxious that I might lose internet connection, sound, video link, etc. Once connected the quality wasn’t great, other class members struggled to get and stay connected and sound quality was poor. 

I had been reassured that classes would be recorded and could be watched at another time, should the technology let me down. However, other than my allocated day at university I unfortunately don’t have the time to go back and re-watch a class. My days off are and will be spent preparing for my exams as well as fitting in normal life activities outside work and study. 

Providing lecture material well in advance of the online class is so important. When presentations are not available at least 24 hours in advance, it causes unnecessary stress. Personally I like to be prepared,and not rely on my printer the night before or morning of the online class. If I do lose internet connection, for whatever reason, having the relevant written material in front of me enables me to work through it and make the most of the protected time.  

Consistency in communication is key and has been challenging throughout my course. Sometimes we would receive emails vis Queens online other times via Canvas, all I ask is pick one and use it, don’t have me guessing!

 I appreciate that Covid-19 is a difficult time for us all,  but to support post registration students through their programme of study please remember many of us are working full time, trying to provide a service as well as studying. The university needs to ensure that staff unfamiliar to studying online receive extra support, to get them through their course successfully and ensure that they actually enjoy learning and don’t see it as a burden, and that information is provided in a timely manner. 

About the author:

Sharlene, has been a qualified nurse for 27years, and has worked and studied in Northern Ireland, England and Scotland.  Her varied career which includes, Accident + Emergency, Surgical High Dependency, Outreach as Advanced Nurse Practitioner, Intensive Care Nursing and most recently as a Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist. 

Student nurses, Jade and Majella share their experience of moving online in the Covid -19 pandemic


Moving online was originally a daunting experience for me. Mainly because I thought I would never get the chance to focus on my work with a 4 -year-old at home! Nevertheless, we quickly developed a new routine and got to it. It really wasn’t much different to getting up and getting ready to go to uni. I got up and got ready but only had to sit at my desk at home! It was quite a novelty.


At the beginning, not many people went on screen to participate, it was mainly participation from the online chat or the microphone audio. I felt like my learning needs were still being met and I was actively engaging over the chat, there was something satisfying about trying to get your answer typed in first! However, it was evident that some people were not participating perhaps because it was easy to walk away. When we were encouraged to start and go on screen to participate, I thought this was a brilliant idea and might help with the connection of the class and concentration, especially with the longer topics. As we went on screen our learning really was maximised!

It didn’t feel all that different from being in class, and our tutorial lead was able to engage so much better with us, seeing our faces and reading our reactions, and the class operated more smoothly. This was much better than looking at the “… is typing..” bubble on the screen. It was fun, informative and honestly the best thing to happen in a ‘bad’ situation. I do not feel I have missed out on my tutorial classes at all, over the 12 weeks that were online, I definitely engaged more than I would have in class, as it is not as daunting offering your answers when you are in your own home. Overall, I had a really positive experience going on screen to participate in my learning and it 100% made the transition so much better and enjoyable.


At the beginning the thought of online classes scared me, with a young family I wasn’t sure how this would work.  I soon developed a routine and the lecturers understood the challenge of family commitments.  I attended every online lecture that was available.  When I settled into the new routine, I actually found that online learning suited me! Yes, its not the same as being in uni but the support was there regardless. Perhaps, as a mature student I settled quickly, knowing the demands of the degree were high. I actually found it easier than traveling 2hrs each day to university. I was able to be at home with my children whilst completing my degree.


Engaging with the lecturers and having our own group sessions for tutorial was the biggest help throughout.  In the smaller tutorial classes, I knew most of my fellow students better and felt more comfortable.  Being able to interact with my lecturer and to physically see them eased some of my worries.  We all had the same questions or needed the same advice and sometimes just seeing each other spurred us on – it helped with class morale.  I still miss being around all the friends that I made and the hub of a uni environment, but i can honestly say it worked for me.  

About the authors

Jade is a second year student nurse, with 4 year old son. She has experience working in the the community as a Health Care Assistant and as a physiotherapy assistant. Jade has a real interest in oncology nursing and is looking forward to more practice experiences on placement!

Majella is a second year student nurse, with three children, aged, 11, 9 and 5. Starting university as a mature student has been daunting but with amazing support from her husband, children and parents, she has been able to pursue her career.