Lawrence Bloomberg, the founder and former CEO of Canadian investment dealer First Marathon Inc., has delivered a $10-million donation to U of T’s Faculty of Nursing. The gift – the largest ever to a Canadian nursing faculty – will boost U of T’s international profile in nursing research and education, and help Canada’s health-care system meet the demands of an aging population, says dean Sioban Nelson.
The faculty, established in 1920 as the Department of Public Health Nursing, will be named the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing (making it the first named nursing faculty in Canada) and will launch initiatives in three key areas: education, research and student support.“This gift will completely transform U of T’s nursing faculty over the next decade,” says Nelson. “It will have an enormous impact on the faculty’s international standing and on the kind of clinicians and researchers we’re producing.”
As Canada’s population ages and demands on the health-care system increase, nurses are being asked to assume greater responsibility for patient care in a variety of areas, including chronic illness and pain management. The Bloomberg gift will fund two educational initiatives: a Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Nursing Education, which will focus on enhancing the quality of the student experience; and a Continuing Education Unit, to keep nursing graduates up to date with the latest knowledge and innovations – and thus improve patient care.
“As the skills that nurses perform become more complex, it’s vital that students and clinicians learn how to react to difficult situations in a simulated environment so they are not encountering them for the first time in the field,” says Nelson. These initiatives will also help prepare students to work in health-care teams, where co-ordination can be a challenge. Research shows that well-functioning health-care teams are important to patient safety, she says.
The gift will also help boost research and attract top senior and junior international researchers to the faculty. A portion of the funds will be used to create four limited-term professorships and 20 international visiting professorships and postdoctoral fellowships over the next 10 years. “This will put us on the map internationally as a place for study, work and collaboration,” says Nelson.
With $4 million earmarked for scholarship endowment, the gift will also create 50 new scholarships, which almost triples the number of awards available to U of T nursing students. Nelson says the new scholarships will enable the faculty to attract more of the country’s best students and to expand its master’s program. Scholarships are particularly important in nursing, she adds, because most undergraduate students carry debt from their first degree, while nursing master’s students are commonly mid-career women with family responsibilities.
As a volunteer and philanthropist, Lawrence Bloomberg is well acquainted with the health-care sector. He serves as chairman of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. It is in this role, he says, that he observed the need for greater support for nursing education:“With this gift, I wanted to ensure that nurses would play their rightful role as full members of the health-care team,” he says. Bloomberg adds that he plans to remain involved with the faculty’s evolution and hopes his donation will challenge his peers to also recognize the importance of nursing. “I don’t think people appreciate enough the role nurses play.”