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Student’s participation in nursing program review gives her leadership experience
Apr 26, 2021, By: Lydia Francis , June Anonson
Nurse standing against a wall with a clipboard.
The development of future nursing leaders is an essential element of succession planning and is necessary as the nursing profession faces a prospective shortage of individuals who are prepared to assume leadership roles.

Takeaway messages

  • Nursing students need to be engaged in opportunities that will help them become successful leaders in the future.
  • One example of a leadership opportunity is the involvement of a student in a professional nursing program review.
  • The student who participated in the review, the review team, and the program under review all benefitted from the experience.

The role of provincial nursing regulatory bodies is to protect the public, and one way they do so is by ensuring education programs are preparing knowledgeable, safe, and competent nurses (College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba, n.d.). The purpose of professional review teams is to gather evidence for nursing regulatory bodies so they can make informed decisions about approving nursing education programs. The review team members identify the strengths of nursing programs and make suggestions for growth and change (Lewallen, 2015).

Beasley, Farmer, Ard, and Nunn-Ellison (2019) explain that benefits to individuals who conduct reviews include increased knowledge of the review process and variations in educational practices, as well as opportunities for professional growth, service to the nursing profession, peer networking, and the chance to have a voice in the future of nursing education.

Reviewers of Canadian nursing programs typically include nurses with experience in leadership and education. However, we did not find any research documentation in the literature of a nursing student participating as a member of a professional review team.

Star Mahara, Lydia Francis and June Anonson.
Courtesy of Lydia Francis.
The review team (left to right): Star Mahara, Lydia Francis and June Anonson.

This article examines the original and unique experience of including a baccalaureate nursing student (Lydia Francis) in a nursing program review and outlines the benefits of having a student as a team member.

The development of future nursing leaders is an essential element of succession planning and is necessary as the nursing profession faces a prospective shortage of individuals who are prepared to assume leadership roles (Sessler Branden & Sharts-Hopko, 2017). Hendricks, Cope, and Harris (2010) claim that this situation is not due to lack of interest or willingness, but rather due to insufficient opportunities.

Knight & Hamilton (2019) note that it is vital for nursing students to have opportunities to develop leadership competencies. Several examples of students’ successful engagement in leadership activities are described by Anonson, Conroy, Healey-Ogden, Palmer, & Shawra (2005) and include collaborating with administration and faculty to integrate technology into the clinical setting, organizing peer support groups, and successfully planning an event celebrating the community’s nurses. Anonson et al. (2005) explain that students are more inclined to become leaders when educators create an environment of innovation and determination where students can learn leadership skills.

This article describes Lydia’s experience participating in a professional review of a three-year nursing program in Manitoba, which gave her an opportunity to exercise her leadership skills.

Literature review

A review of scholarly, peer-reviewed articles was conducted using variations of the keywords “nursing student,” “nursing schools,” “program review,” and “program evaluation.” The search included the databases CINAHL, Medline, and Web of Science. The purpose of this search was to determine whether a nursing student had previously participated on a professional nursing program review team.

An additional search of the grey literature was performed with the same keywords. No date or language limiters were set, and the authors chose to include nursing students of all education levels. The titles and abstracts of the articles that the search results yielded were then screened manually. Although there are examples of nursing students’ involvement in the evaluation or initiatives of the programs in which they are or were enrolled, the literature did not reveal any evidence of a student’s participation in an external professional nursing program review.

Front sign for Red River College.
Courtesy of Red River College
Red River College.
The process

As part of a learning opportunity and mentorship experience for senior nursing students, Lydia accompanied a baccalaureate program review team. This opportunity was initiated by one of Lydia’s nursing professors, June Anonson, who was to be one of the review team leaders. Prior to Lydia’s inclusion, the institution under review (Red River College), a second review team member,Star Mahara, and a representative from the provincial regulatory body (the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba [CRNM]), were asked to approve Lydia’s participation. All individuals involved enthusiastically supported this innovative addition to the team.

Prior to the formal review, the team prepared by examining yearly reports, the strategic plan for scholarships, course syllabi, and other documents. (As Lydia was a relatively late addition to the review team, she had less than 24 hours to examine the documents.) As the documents were reviewed by the team, questions were formulated by June, Star, and Lydia.

Lydia was considered a valuable team member and was included in most of the interviews.

Following a review of the documents, the team created a matrix utilizing the site visit schedule and the CRNM’s Standards for Nursing Education Programs (CRNM, 2018) to determine which individuals at the institution would provide the best information during interviews.

Over the next two days, the team met with the nursing chair and the dean of health sciences and community services, program managers and coordinators, faculty, program graduates, current students, support service personnel, and clinical site faculty to help the team determine whether the program met each of the CRNM’s standards (CRNM, 2018). During these interviews, Lydia and one reviewer observed and took notes while the other reviewer asked the questions.

Lydia was considered a valuable team member and was included in most of the interviews. All members of the team took turns participating in the reviewer roles of transcriber, interviewer, and leader for the sessions. This was a unique opportunity for Lydia, and her participation was supported by all groups involved in the review.

Very early in the review process, Lydia was given an opportunity to participate as the leader of one of the small group interviews. She was given the choice of either attempting the role or observing further before doing so. Using her keen observational skills from the previous meetings, she was able to emulate the actions of the other reviewers and led the session very successfully. Her observational and critical thinking skills helped to make this an excellent learning opportunity for herself as well as furthering the completion of the review.

On the following day, Lydia was asked to lead the interview with the program’s current nursing students. She was able to establish a good rapport with these students, who appeared to respond with eagerness to share their experiences, challenges, and successes at the college under review. Lydia’s participation appeared to encourage the students to be open and honest, and they voiced their appreciation of having a student involved.

In addition to the interviews with various groups, the team toured the college’s lab and simulation room and met with the coordinators of these areas. Clinical site visits are a usual part of a program evaluation, and as in most reviews, a tour of a hospital was also arranged. Lydia found this visit very valuable and appreciated the opportunity to observe one of the facilities where the nursing students’ clinical practicums took place.

At the end of the two days, the team met with the nursing chair and coordinators for a final debriefing to share a review summary and preliminary findings. In this meeting, Lydia was invited to share her perspective of the program’s strengths and areas for improvement along with the two review co-leaders. At this time, all involved in the process identified Lydia’s participation as having enhanced the review for everyone.

Benefits of including a student

Following the review, Lydia found that the experience expanded her knowledge of the program review process, provided an opportunity to influence the nursing profession, and increased her confidence in her leadership skills.

Lydia acknowledged that during her nursing courses, she had not learned about the review process that nursing schools undergo, but by actively participating in the nursing program review, she was able to gain a thorough understanding of the process.

Similar to the findings of Beasley et al. (2019), Lydia found that participating in the review was personally enriching as it allowed her to take part in critically reviewing the education of future nursing professionals. Moreover, this experience gave Lydia a deeper understanding of what would be expected of her if she is called upon to participate in the review of another institution in the future.

This opportunity showed the students the value of their input in a team process.

When Lydia accepted the offer to lead a group interview with the nursing program’s support service personnel, this helped her implement such leadership traits as courage and confidence (Marquis & Huston, 2017). The opportunity to conduct a meeting with current students allowed Lydia to be a role model for involvement in innovative leadership experiences. Leading both sessions helped her develop the leadership skills of communication, critical thinking, and time management (Marquis & Huston, 2017).

There are many benefits to succession planning in professional reviews: it supports and empowers students to consider future leadership opportunities in different roles in which they may be involved throughout their career. This opportunity showed the students the value of their input in a team process. The experience also helped the leaders of the review see the positive implications of including student reviewers in the future if the resources are available to support their involvement.


The original idea for this project was conceptualized by June Anonson, who is always looking for ways for her students to exercise leadership both inside and outside the classroom. This experience would not have been possible without Diane Heywood of CRNM, Red River College, and Star Mahara, who was also a review team member; all gave approval for the inclusion of a student on the review team, and then supported her presence and participation and made this a successful experience. Express written permission has been obtained from all named individuals and institutions above for inclusion in this article.


Anonson, J., Conroy, S., Healey-Ogden, M., Palmer, J., & Shawara, E. (2005). Planting the seeds of leadership. Canadian Nurse, 101(2), 24–27. Retrieved from

Beasley, S., Farmer, S., Ard, N., & Nunn-Ellison, K. (2019). A voice in the accreditation process: The role of the peer evaluator. Teaching and Learning in Nursing, 14(4), A3–A5. Retrieved from

College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba. (n.d.). About the college: What we do. Retrieved from

College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba. (2018). Standards for nursing education programs. Retrieved from

Hendricks, J., Cope, V., & Harris, M. (2010). A leadership program in an undergraduate nursing course in Western Australia: Building leaders in our midst. Nurse Education Today, 30(3), 252–257. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2009.12.007

Knight, C., & Hamilton, S. (2019). Getting students to value leadership early in the nursing curriculum: Innovation makes it possible. Nursing Education Perspectives, 40(4), 254–256. doi:10.1097/01.NEP.0000000000000351

Lewallen, L. P. (2015). Practical strategies for nursing education program evaluation. Journal of Professional Nursing, 31(2), 133–140. Retrieved from

Marquis, B. L. & Huston, C. J. (2017). Leadership roles and management functions in nursing: Theory and application (9th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer.

Sessler Branden, P., & Sharts-Hopko, N. (2017). Growing clinical and academic nursing leaders: Building the pipeline. Nursing Administration Quarterly, 41(3), 258–265. doi:10.1097/NAQ.0000000000000239

Lydia Francis, RN, BSN, is a recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. She is currently taking her critical care nursing course and has been gaining experience as a new nurse in various clinical areas, including intensive care and post-anesthesia care units.
June Anonson, RN, PhD, is a professor at the University of Saskatchewan.