Dr. Noreen Frisch

Dr. Noreen Frisch

I am known in three areas of nursing: holistic nursing, nursing terminologies, and informatics. The latter two were logical outgrowths of my commitment to the first, that of incorporating the principles of holism in all nursing practice. My career path became a journey of following one idea to the next, one area of practice to another, obtaining additional education along the way. I’ve practiced in diverse locations and overlapping specialties.

I started my career in the US, where I completed my basic nursing diploma and BSN degree. Initially I worked in psychiatric nursing, community mental health, and public health. I felt underprepared for community work and obtained my first graduate degree in social work. I continued working in community settings and sought my second master’s degree, this time in family nursing.

In the 1990s I learned about the Holistic Nursing Association in the US; attending one of their meetings became career changing. For the first time in my work, I encountered colleagues who could articulate the need for kindness, compassion, and caring, and who also had an interest in theory, research, and policy. Those colleagues became mentors, co-workers, and friends. After some time contributing to this organization and serving as its president, I became aware that holistic nursing isn’t just a way to work, it is a way of life — a way of being that influenced virtually all of my interactions. I was encouraged to take my work to the next level and pursued my PhD.

In academia I realized that much of what I and others were teaching as meaningful in nursing practice (listening with intent, empathy, presence, compassion, supporting patients in their own health and healing decisions) was not noticed, documented, or valued by our healthcare systems. Eager to make professional nursing visible, I associated with colleagues who were addressing nursing’s need to have a language to name that which nurses do. I participated in developing terminologies that could identify, name, document, and evaluate the full scope of nursing. I found that awareness of holistic nursing, coupled with an appreciation for articulating care, could bring nursing forward as a distinct discipline. This knowledge prepared me to understand and influence healthcare informatics where practice is documented digitally.

I’ve been a faculty member and chair/director at four universities, have over 100 publications and six books, and taught many students who left me with important learnings and cherished memories. I have received awards and titles — Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, Fellow of NANDA-I, a Lifetime Achievement Award in Holistic Nursing, an Award for Excellence in Nursing Administration. However, the most valuable reward is knowing that my work has made a difference. I was privileged to be invited to the University of Victoria at the end of my career to join the UVic nursing community — there is none better.

Reflection on Directorship

Dr. Noreen Frisch was the Seventh Director of the School of Nursing, 2007–2015 

The summer of 2007 marked a turning point in my life and my work. I travelled (with my husband and our two dogs) over 3,000 kilometres to Victoria to take the position of Director, School of Nursing (SON) at the University of Victoria (UVic). I was eager to return to Canada, thrilled to be in Victoria, and delighted to begin a new phase of my work. On my first day, I was welcomed by Diana Walton (Administrative Officer) and Jill Nichol (Office Manager), who introduced me to the SON  its people, physical space, policies, and procedures. They helped me get to know the school’s culture (kind and welcoming) and its needs (stability in the Director’s office and support for programs).  

I learned very quickly that the SON had very committed staff who shared a common desire to meet student needs. As I met more and more people within the school and the faculty, I was continually impressed by people’s dedication. I found the faculty members to be especially reflective and willing to express considered views on what they were doing and why. The SON had a long history of teaching and living the caring curriculum and also of establishing partnerships and collaborations. This history provided the SON community with qualities needed for the future development and success of our programs. 

I remember the immediate challenge we faced together after my arrival: the closing of the Lower Mainland campus! That accomplished, over the next few years there were several areas that stand out for me as achievements, for together we: 

  • Expanded the NP program  
  • Offered Education and Advanced Practice Leadership streams in our MSN program 
  • Taught our post-diploma and graduate programs through online course management systems  
  • Established an online double degree masters program in Nursing and Health Information Science in partnership with faculty from the School of Health Information Science 
  • Expanded the PhD program and offered it through distributed learning 
  • Employed both a Senior Scholar (to mentor those new in supporting PhD students) and a Writing Scholar (to assist faculty in addressing students’ needs to develop writing skills) 

For my own work, three projects stand out as representing our SON’s commitment to service and innovation: 1) the Students on the Move projectan event requiring year-long planning to support the Royal Jubilee Hospital’s move to a new building by having students serve as individual partners for every patient being relocated on moving day, 2) the Foot Hygiene Program offered by students at Our Place to support the city’s homeless individuals, and 3) InspireNet: BC’s nursing and health services research network, hosted at our school, which grew to connect over 5,000 members in a virtual learning community  something that led to networking capacities now used by the BC SUPPORT Unit for patient-oriented research.  

None of the achievements or activities I’ve mentioned were mine alone; they were all part of a journey of many. We upsized, downsized, innovated, and celebrated! We ended up in a different place than we started  and the journey continues today!