In Profile: 2017 COUPN Awards Winners

As National Nursing Week approaches, our thoughts turn to the nursing students, faculty, researchers, preceptors, agency leaders and partners who demonstrate excellence in their field every day. Each year, this excellence is celebrated by the annual Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing (COUPN) Awards, highlighting achievements and innovation across the sector. To mark this year’s 10th annual COUPN Awards, we sat down with three of our fantastic faculty and student award winners to ask them about the value of nursing education in Ontario.

Dr. Gail Mitchell, York University, is the winner of this year’s Teaching Innovation Award.

Dr. Mitchell, how do your students, and ultimately patients, benefit from your teaching innovations?

Photo of Gail MitchellGM: I have been most involved in two educational innovations: an eLearning platform called Daagu, and research-based drama.

Daagu offers students the chance to think critically about ideas, seek out different viewpoints and explore new possibilities within a collaborative network of learners. My role as educator in the Daagu platform is to question, challenge, provoke and inspire students to figure out what is important, to weigh consequences, and to choose a way forward. This process aligns with person-centred care, and the reality that nurses need to be both critical thinkers and curious seekers. There is no one authority or best way when people are trying to address the big issues linked with human health.

Research-based drama takes the work of health researchers and turns it into theatre that tackles societal and cultural problems. I’m helping with one called Cracked: New Light on Dementia that challenges the language we use to describe people and the health-care policies that limit nurses, and then goes on to look at alternative ways of providing dignified, holistic, and humane care. Hundreds of health-care professionals who have been involved in helping us evaluate the drama described how they will practice differently with persons and family members living with dementia.


Fran Meloche, University of Windsor, is this year’s recipient of the Master’s Student Award of Excellence.

Ms. Meloche, can you describe the most valuable thing you learned through your university’s nursing education program?

Photo of Fran MelocheFM: I went into my master’s program, eager to participate and practically apply my work, but as I progressed, something happened – I discovered the hidden value of scholarship within education.

Course professors, including my thesis supervisor Dr. Lorna de Witt, encouraged us to take advantage of various scholarly activities including poster and oral presentations at the university, in health-care facilities in our community, and at conferences.  I took part in many of these opportunities, and realized first-hand how research influences conversation and impacts decisions made at various levels in education and the health-care system.  My thesis topic provided university and long-term care home leaders with valuable insights about positive clinical placements in long-term care homes for nursing students in their final year.  As a result, the number of gerontological clinical placements has grown in the university’s undergraduate nursing program.

I’m excited to see how my thesis work has started to stimulate conversations that will hopefully result in more improvements to our education and health-care system – impacting the care of individuals in our communities. My education has shown me the effect of scholarship in action, and has given me an opportunity to influence my community in a way I never dreamed possible.


Richard Tang, U of T, is the recipient of the 2017 Excellence in Professional Nursing Practice at the Undergraduate Student Level Award.

Richard, can you describe the most valuable thing you learned through your university’s nursing education program?

Photo of Richard TangRT: I’ve learned what it means to provide safe, compassionate nursing care, and the value of the nursing profession at an individual, community, and systemic level.

In-class learning, alongside clinical rotations, gave me the chance to learn about patient and family-centred nursing care and then apply it in a medical setting. Whether it was a rotation in community or acute care settings, or in adults or paediatrics, I have witnessed the critical role that nurses play in affecting change. There are endless opportunities within nursing that I could pursue, and I’ve been able to see these in action through clinical placements. I am proud and honoured to be taking my learnings from the University of Toronto and joining such a meaningful profession.

Read about the 2017 COUPN Award Winners here.