There are a number of things I wish I had known before I accepted the offer of a spot in the direct-entry master’s in nursing at McGill. You may still want to go into this programme, but these are a few of the things that I wish I had known, going into it. This may be of interest to people who are deciding whether or not to apply over the next few months.
It will not be possible to go to all your classes
The direct-entry programme schedules your clinical in conflict with other required courses. This means that you actually can’t possibly go to all your classes, because you have to go to clinical instead. Complain all you like, and the professors will agree with you, cluck their tongues and say it’s terrible, but nothing will be done to change it.
There are major administrative problems that the programme refuses to acknowledge
The venue of my first clinical assignment had no idea that my classmates and I were coming. McGill told us to go to a retirement home that had not invited us to come. We were a complete surprise to them when we showed up. Eventually we were given contact information for residents to follow, but the person that I was told had “volunteered” to be followed by a nursing student for the semester refused to meet with me, saying that she had never been asked, and that she was uninterested.
When I took this up with the professor running my clinical assignment, she expressed that she felt it was a failure on my part, that I would be marked accordingly and that I should have “done nursing” anyway. Attempts to clarify what she meant by “nursing” in this context were unsuccessful. Requests for help in this impossible assignment were considered hostile by the professors.
This sort of administrative failure was in my experience typical of the programme as a whole.
The direct-entry programme is not recognised by the College of Nurses of Ontario
This is a more recent development that occurred in January of 2012, but the direct-entry nursing programme recently lost recognition from the College of Nurses of Ontario, which means that it is impossible to directly apply for licensure in Ontario, and it may take a great deal more time and money to become a nurse in Ontario.
This may be fixed before you graduate, or it may not. Enter at your own risk. The administration of the programme generally don’t think that this is a big deal, but if you are planning on going to Ontario to practice after graduation, you may not be able to do so.
The programme is very expensive if you are not from Québec
I am a Canadian citizen, but I grew up in Ontario, and so for the purposes of tuition, I am not a Québec resident as far as McGill is concerned (even though I have been working and paying taxes in the province for the last few years). This means that tuition is higher for me. If you are coming from another province, you will be in the same situation. If you are coming from America or another country, it will cost you even more.
On June 28, 2011 I went in and asked the nursing department directly how much the programme would cost. They told me that there was absolutely no way that they could make an estimate, and that I should ask the registrar. I went to the registrar, who told me that they couldn’t give me any indication about the cost of the programme until after I choose my courses.
Come September, I was shocked to receive a bill for about $11,000 in the first semester. All told, I estimate that you should probably have somewhere in the area of $20,000 set aside for one year of the three-year programme.
You will receive no financial support from McGill
Students in the first year of the direct-entry programme are not considered to be full-time master’s students, since (for historical and administrative reasons) the first year is officially designated a “qualifying year.” Hence, if you request help from Financial Aid at McGill, they will decline to help you. I stood in line at Financial Aid and asked for help, and I was given an email address to contact after I filled out a questionnaire on my programme and financial status. Upon receiving and reviewing my questionnaire by email, I received the following response:
We are unable to assist you at this time. Please contact us later on in the semester. Remember to update your Financial Aid Profile if your situation should change.
In short, there was nothing that McGill could do to help. Be prepared for the worst. Look into bank loans. McGill takes an attitude toward direct-entry master’s of nursing students that could be best summed up as: “you’re on your own, and you should be ashamed for asking for help.”
Bullying within the programme
During my time as a direct-entry master’s student in nursing at McGill, I was attacked on a personal and academic level by professors in a number of different ways. I was told explicitly by two of my evaluators that a particular professor was giving them instructions to decrease my mark for reasons unrelated to my performance. They told me so because they were shocked that a professor would act in this way, and thought I should know.
By the end of my time as a student, I had absolutely no confidence that I would be given a fair shot at a decent grade in the programme. With this evidence that there was no relationship between my work and my mark, I lost any faith in the credibility of the school. I spoke to the Ombudsperson, who advised me that there was nothing that could be done.
Beyond concerns about my grades, I was the object of weekly intimidation from a particular professor during my clinical assignment. Every week, she would find me at the hospital to undermine me in front of my peers, and make my assignment a negative and humiliating experience for me.
I withdrew from the programme at the end of the qualifying year for this reason and for the reasons outlined above. The McGill master of nursing programme was the worst educational experience of my life and I cannot recommend it to others.
Recommendations for applicants
With all these considerations in mind, you may still want to pursue this as a career option, but be aware that there are some very serious issues with the programme as it currently stands. These issues may have been addressed in the time since I left, so I do recommend asking about each of these major categories specifically before accepting an offer of admission.
Here are some questions you may want to ask:
- Will I be expected to keep up with courses that have conflicting schedules? For example, is it still “one of the first-year challenges” that pathology and clinical are scheduled to occur at the same time?
- In which provinces is this programme currently officially recognised? Is it currently recognised in every province in Canada? How long has it been recognised, and has there been any changes in its official status in the last five years, as far as the colleges of nurses of other provinces are concerned?
- How much will the programme cost? (Do not accept “we can’t tell you” for an answer. Press them on this. Try phrases like, “Will it cost more than $100,000 per year?” if they’re being stubborn about it.)
- Is there any hope for financial aid for DE students?
- What recourse do I have in case I experience abuse or bullying from my professors?
If there has been progress on these issues, or if you get an official response, I would love to see you post it in the comments below!