Have I Chosen the Wrong University?

World International


  • Specializes in LTC, Med/Surg, Rehab, NICU, Peds.

Hi, this is my first time posting on a nursing message board.

I'll just take a second to introduce myself: I am currently a student at the University of Alberta (BScN Program), and I am so desperately miserable in this program I could just cry!

I am part way through my second year, and this semester I have chosen to drop all my clinicals and take all of my electives and support courses, while, in the meantime, I am applying to some other schools.

I have applied to both Dalhousie University and to the University of Toronto. Can anyone here tell me about either of these universities? Do they use the context based learning format (which I hate)? Has anyone had good or bad experiences at these schools? Are they organized and how is the clinical experience?

I do not know if this is the right area of the board to be posting this, but, if anyone has any information or can tell me where to look so that I can talk to more students who have attended either of these universities, I would appreciate it! Thank You!


6,620 Posts

I work with several people who went to U of T. They generally complain they didn't get enough clinical, but that's true of any new nurse. They all do fine on the unit, so it couldn't have been a terrible program or anything.


40 Posts

Hi there,

What is it that you don't like about context-based learning? I've heard only good things about that method and I've always kind of wished that I went to a nursing school that used that way of teaching.

I'm finishing up my third year of a BScN at Dalhousie. It's not bad. I don't feel like we get a lot of clinical but like fergus51 said, I think most nursing students feel the same way. I've had nothing but wonderful clinical instructors... although some of my friends have had not so great ones. The classes here are divided up like Physiology, Patho, Pharmacology, Med-Surg, etc..... and I've always thought it made more sense to take one system and do everything all at once. Like take the Respiratory system and do normal A&P, patho, pharm and nursing care.

One thing Dal doesn't advertise is that you might end up needing to get placed way outside of Halifax for one of your summer clinical intersessions. They've increased the enrollment but there's not an increase in clinical areas in the Halifax Metro Area and I know of a number of students who had to do clinical outside of the city... and find a place to live for 6 weeks and all that hassle.... and Dal won't help you out with funding for that at all. So, that's one drawback.... at least for out-of-province students like me.

Otherwise it's not a bad place to go to nursing school. Grads here apparently do really well on the CNA RN exams each year compared to other schools, so I guess they teach us something!!

If you have any other questions, just ask....

ldh, BSN, RN

70 Posts

Specializes in LTC, Med/Surg, Rehab, NICU, Peds.

Hi, and thanks for your reply.

If you ask any student at the UofA how they like the program, I am very, very confident that you would likely get a whopping 90% of the students (that's students from year 1 to year 4, and, I have talked to a lot of them) do not like the program, are frustrated, and wish they had the resources to relocate elsewhere. The CBL concept is a brand new concept that has been brought into the BScN program. The program is extremely disorganized, and each student is definitely not on the same page at the end of a 6 week course, for example. The tutorial section of the program lasts for 6 weeks and has a lab component as well. Often, a six week clinical follows. However, 50% of the students in second year this year had to do their clinicals before they even did one lab (and the 6 week lab course followed the clinical). Students were expected to compress 6 weeks worth of lab knowledge into one. Only one lab was held before clinical, and in my class the tutor 'expected us to do the reading', and did not show us how to do anything, just asked if we had questions (we're talking catheterization, dressings, IM/SC/ID injections, IV maintenance, blood glucose testing, chemstrips). Is that acceptable?

With the tutorial portion of the course, students are in small groups of 6 (but only 1 teacher for a class of about 30), and they are given a scenario to brainstorm (about 6 scenarios in all), and they have to form nursing diagnoses and care plans for the patient in the scenario. Some tutors will give students reading lists, and other classes are not even told what to read or focus on for the final, they just have to 'figure it out for themselves'. Trust me, I'm not just a sour grapes person with bad marks. I received A's and A+'s in all of my courses in first year, but I still was frustrated most of the time.

The clinicals are even worse. There does not seem to be a set standard for each clinical class. Ideally, a class should have learning objectives, and ALL of the students by the end of, let's say, second year, should generally have the same skillset. Wrong. There are many students who, by the end of second year, have not had a chance to prepare insulin, and some have not even done any catheterizations, enemas or suppositories. This is not because that student was not ready or not prepared, but because the instructor either did not have time, or just up and decided that certain items in the learning objectives should not be completed. And, tutors in third year are left wondering why students coming into their classes do not know their skills. My last clinical class was taught by a very, very mean instructor who eroded the self confidence of each student to the point where many were wondering whether they chose the right profession. It almost seemed as if she took pleasure in doing so. I brought this to the attention of the faculty, and this individual is now on probation.

I try to take as much responsibility for my education as humanly possible. If one is not a self-directed learner, one will not make it through the program with passing grades. Most of my confidence and experience has been gained working as a nursing attendant in the summer and throughout the year, and hopefully as an ACW this summer. I am 100% positive, because of my work experience, that I have chosen the right profession. However, I am not positive I have chosen the right university. If, in fact, what is happening at my university happens everywhere else too, then I won't bother relocating and I will just have to grow some "thicker skin". I apologize for the length of my post, but you wanted an explanation of why I don't like CBL, and, I don't think it's CBL itself, but the way the faculty delivers the program.

canoehead, BSN, RN

6,856 Posts

Specializes in ER.

I graduated from Dalhousie in 1996, doing a post RN BSN program. I didn't end up on any clinicals, because of having my RN. I can't say I liked the program but Halifax is a very friendly and beautiful city, so I can't imagine going elsewhere.

A tip, from me to you- once you get your first few papers in and get pegged as an "average" student you will get a B no matter what. Other students in my class commented on that, and I agree. I got a B on a paper written in an hour, and also on one that was published and on their reading list the next year.

Looking back, most of the learning I did during those years had more to do with becoming interested in a topic I heard about in school and researching it. Not so much because of anything I learned IN the program. But you'll have access to a beautiful medical library and lots of health field students to ask questions of.

Good luck, and if you have any more questions feel free to ask, or send a PM.


6,620 Posts

I have heard bad things about U of A. My niece's friend went there for a fourth year practicum and said it was a complete waste of time. They wanted her to be looking after 1 or 2 patients, when she was about to graduate and had been looking after 4 or 5!


40 Posts

Thanks for explaining context-based learning to me ldh..... it sounds like a horror show the way it's set up there, I certainly understand why you would want to switch universities. That sounds totally disorganized and incredibly frustrating.

I want to say that I think you'll find excellent, good and bad clinical instructors anywhere you go. Dal has well-organized labs for learning skills and everyone gets the same amount of lab time and learns the same stuff that way. But, when it comes to actual clinical time, some students are better off than others depending on the clinical instructor you get. I've been really lucky before, like I said earlier.... all of my instructors have been fabulous (with the exception of the one I had for my maternity rotation.... but that's another story grr!). Like the one I have for my med-surg clinical right now is amazing. The clinical itself is only 5 weeks long and 2 days a week. Her goal is to have us prepared enough to look after 3-4 patients each by the end of the rotation. She has been teaching us how to read EKG's and showing us all sorts of different types of IV lines and when you would use them and going over the crash cart and showing us what everything on the cart does. But I know a friend of mine has a clinical instructor right now who doesn't show up on time and never apologizes about it.

I think a lot of it depends on what unit you get placed on for your clinical too. For my summer intersession I was on a gynecology unit and I got quite a bit of practice with catheterization. Whereas friends who were on a cardiology floor didn't get to catheterize anyone at all. It's just a matter of the type of unit you're on and the type of instructor you have.

Anyway, Dal certainly isn't a perfect school.... but like I said in my experience, it's not bad. We don't use context-based learning so there is another option than what you're stuck in!

Oh, I forget to add.... one thing I don't like about Dal is that our classes are all so huge and very few of them have tutorials. I really find that a drawback when it comes to learning. You can't really get into discussions to clarify your learning in such a large group.


446 Posts

I have heard bad reviews from nursing students there.

I think that if you do not like the PBL type of learning, nearly all the universities in A------

are going that route, another province may be the right choice.

I went to UBC...that was a school with vision.

Bad instructors are everywhere....there is such a shortage almost any warm body will do.

Reporting poor instructors is a good thing....learning to stand up for yourselves is a good exercise for the real world of nursing.

I have a colleague who teaches in a University....'the implementation of PBL 'sucks' and the students aren't getting much out of it'. I recently wrote the NCLEX-RN and told her some of the content in the exam. Her opinion? It would be darn difficult for their students to pass NCLEX-RN after PBL type of instruction.


10 Posts

Hi there, I'm a new member as well, but i'm glad to answer your question. I too live in edmonton, and know many people that have taken the course at the UofA that you are taking now, and they all hated it as well, because of classes without teachers and little amount of clinical etc..... I am from New Brunswick and have attended UNB in fredericton and Moncton. If you prefer the smaller class sizes, which is much more comfortable, than I suggest you apply to the UNB campus in Moncton, New Brunswick. I went there and absolutley loved it!! You have so much clinical time and the prof. is with you the whole time. She never leaves the floor or your side. It's so great! the teaching is outstanding, and there's so much to do there. I'd look into it if I were you, if you like the smaller classes. there is approx. 15 per class I would say. If you want more information on phone numbers and who to contact just email me at [email protected], i'd be glad to help you. Good luck!


8 Posts

I'm a first year student at Dal and I can honestly say that I'm enjoying the program. Since it is first year I can honestly say that I thought that we would be doing more clinical than what we have done...wait we haven't had any yet. We actually do 5 weeks in the springtime...but from what I understand you get more clinical experince as the years progress. I have also been told that you can go through clinical with little experince doing things or you can make the choice to actively p[articipate and learn...Not sure the truth behind that but I guess I'll find that out in May.

As for the placements outseide of Halifax, the university does offer clinical bursaries which give some financial aid for expenses during that time.

I have made some good friends and I've found that the professors are there to talk to you as are the upper year students.

It's a tough choice to leave somewhere and try something new, but Halifax isn't a bad place to live and Dal isn't a bad university!

Good luck!


63 Posts

renee? Is that You?



63 Posts

I'm taking the exact same program as the U of A at GMCC and I think that you have a bum teacher if she isn't going through the labs properly...CBL has nothing to do with the crappy way she's doing her labs. CBL is ok if you're willing to do the work. Nothing wrong in my books!

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