Fitzhenry Family Foundation brings nursing technology to the North

Florence Nightingale, the most famous nurse of all time, was the inspiration for the winning entry in contest to name one of two community-nursing robots located in northern Saskatchewan. The robot’s full name is RoboGale and it is located Air Ronge. Along with a second one called IleXPERT, or Pert for short, in Ile-a-la-Crosse, the robots are part of the University of Saskatchewan College of Nursing initiative to provide undergraduate nursing education to students in both communities.

The University of Saskatchewan’s College of Nursing unveiled the new technology this past summer, thanks to a $10,000 gift from the Fitzhenry Family Foundation. The project helps students learn without having to leave home, an attempt by the college to address the growing need for nurses in Saskatchewan’s North.

By using Remote Presence (RP) technology, nursing students living in northern communities now have access to faculty and mentors. This is one of several technologies used in the new Bachelor of Science in Nursing curriculum. “The goal of launching Remote Presence technology is to address the critical shortage of healthcare workers in rural and remote communities,” said Lorna Butler, Professor and Dean, College of Nursing. “The pursuit of post-secondary education should not be disadvantaged by geography. This technology will help us overcome many of the barriers to accessing continuing education and health services, by offering students the opportunity to obtain a first-class education without leaving their communities.”

The RP7i model is an independently mobile robot with an articulated flat-screen monitor for visual display, a dual camera configuration and full on-board audio, for a seamless and immersive experience. The technology allows faculty experts to engage with learners at remote sites to teach and assess clinical competencies. Remote Presence in nursing education removes geographical barriers and supports students to learn where they live.

The remote technology robotic endpoints have been deployed to the Northlands College Nursing Skills Lab in Air Ronge, SK and the Keewatin Yatthé Regional Health Authority at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Health Centre in Île-à-la-Crosse, SK. The Remote Presence technology endpoints allow faculty members located at the three U of S College of Nursing sites in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert to “beam in” to northern sites on demand. These northern communities are excited to be the first in Canada to use this innovative technology for nursing education.

(photos: U of S nursing students in Air Ronge with the teaching robot named Gale)