It's not an unusual sight to walk by Dr. MacDonald's office and see her holding the hand of a distraught student. In fact, it's her holistic approach to teaching that students love about her.
Dr. MacDonald has been awarded the 2011 President's Award for Distinguished Teaching. An award that recognizes excellence in teaching over an extended period of years, it honours faculty who, through their creative approaches and sustained commitment to teaching, have generated intellectual excitement and fostered the development of students' skills and interest in their disciplines. It also honours educational scholarship and leadership.
Why did you get into teaching?
I always wanted to be a teacher, but I also always wanted to be a nurse. As I developed my nursing practice I always sought out opportunities to teach within the clinical areas in which I worked (ICU and CCU). I started with presentations to my colleagues on specific aspects of nursing care, and then progressed to teaching the Critical Care Nursing course for CCU RNs, and I was also responsible for orientating all of the new ICU and CCU nurses. Once I got a taste of teaching I loved it. The very first time I taught in the university setting was as a guest lecturer for Marilyn Marsh on interpreting arterial blood gases. That was it, I was hooked.
What do you like most about it?
I enjoy the interactions with the students, and I enjoy watching them grow from novice, inexperienced nursing students to confident, competent senior students. Watching them grow into registered nurses is the most rewarding aspect of teaching nursing.
What has surprised you most about teaching?
What has surprised me the most about teaching at Memorial is that I have been teaching for 22 years and I still enjoy coming to work every day. I look forward to each semester and I am never bored.
How did you feel when you found out you'd won this award? What does it mean for you?
I was so excited when I found out that I had won this award, because I know how competitive it is, and I also know exactly what it means to be selected. It is a humbling experience to read the letters of support from students and faculty. This award represents the peak of my teaching career and it reinforces that all of my hard work was worth it. I feel like I have climbed the tallest mountain and have finally reached the peak.
Excerpts from her letters of recommendations for the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching:
- "She empowers us, her students, to become our own leaders, and be team players. Of my ten years at Memorial University, I have yet to come across another faculty member who has such passion and enthusiasm for what they do."
- "Dr. MacDonald believes that it is a privilege to have the opportunity to educate this generation of registered nurses... Her overall goal is to foster safe, competent, caring, ethical nurses."
- "I have never come across a professor who shows so much care and concern for her students as Dr. MacDonald does. She goes above and beyond, without, hesitation, to ensure that every student understands the material and is focusing on the proper topics for exams."
- "The passion that Dr. MacDonald has for nursing not only makes you want to be a better nurse, but to strive for roles beyond that. She makes you think that you could one day be a nurse manager even if the thought of being a staff nurse terrifies you now. She takes pride in her career choice and never makes you second guess yours."
Dr. Sandra MacDonald graduated from the Salvation Army Grace General Hospital in 1980 and worked as an ICU / CCU nurse and then an administrative supervisor of an 11 bed ICU / CCU. She started at MUN in 1989 teaching medical surgical nursing, and leadership and management. In 1995, Dr. MacDonald designed the first interprofessional education (IPE) module with Dr. Ian Bowmer, then the dean of the Faculty of Medicine. This IPE module was on HIV / AIDS and it continues to be used today.
She is currently a professor in the School of Nursing and a faculty associate of the Centre for Collaborative Health professional education. She had a publication in 2005 on the HIV / AIDS module.
Dr. MacDonald was a council member with the Association of Registered Nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador (ARNNL) from 1999 – 2001 and president-elect from 2002 – 2004 as well as president of the ARNNL from 2004 – 2006. This resulted in being a board member for the Canadian Nurses Association form 2004-2006. In 2010 she was awarded the ARNNL Award for Excellence in Nursing Education.
Dr. MacDonald received the VP Instructional Development Grant for Innovative Teaching in 2008 to pilot an education module for nursing student using the high-fidelity simulator (STAN the man in the Faculty of Medicine). This work is being built upon by her current masters student who is designing the first interprofessional high-fidelity simulation module for nursing, pharmacy and medicine.
From 2000-2003, Dr. MacDonald was the associate director of Undergraduate Programs. Since 2010 she has been coaching the Canadian Evaluation Society Student Case Competition and last year coached the first nursing team to place in the top three across Canada.
Her overall "quality of teaching instruction" ratings on the CEQs since 2004 have indicated that she consistently ranks in the top 95th percentile or the top 10 per cent of all teaching faculty at Memorial. Currently, she is teaching the medical surgical nursing theory course, nursing leadership and management, and leads the psychomotor medical surgical labs, as well as clinical teaching in the areas of ICU / CCU / Emergency and the Eastern Health Emergency Medical Flight Team.