Mission Statement


The primary mission of the School of Nursing (SON) is to prepare professional nurses to engage in evidence-informed practice directed toward promoting health, preventing illness, managing disease processes, restoring optimal function, and alleviating suffering in clients across the life-span in a variety of settings. The SON strives to provide the highest quality nursing educational experience in Canada in an environment where the undergraduate comes first. In its commitment to excellence, the SON desires to enhance the intellectual, social, spiritual, cultural, and personal development of its constituents by integrating innovative teaching, rigorous research, holistic practice, and creative community outreach programs. The SON endeavors to search for truth through the processes of professional caring, critical inquiry, reflection, and life-long learning. The SON seeks to develop, advance, and disseminate nursing knowledge as well as proactively influence public policy that impacts on the health and well-being of individuals, families, groups/populations, and communities, including the global community. The SON seeks to actualize the values of academic freedom, academic honesty, and academic integrity while cultivating a culture of scholarship that includes the scholarship of discovery, teaching, application, integration, and service. The SON embraces students, faculty members and clinical associates, and staff from diverse backgrounds and respects the ideals of social justice, inclusivity, and equity. Students, faculty members and clinical associates, staff, alumni, and partners in the community and health care sector are considered to be valued resources in fulfilling this mission.

Historical Background

As one of five professional programs housed within a small primarily undergraduate liberal arts university nestled in a vibrant town in rural northeastern Nova Scotia, the School of Nursing was established in 1926. Since its inception it has evolved from a small but dedicated “department” to a flourishing “school” with more than 1000 nursing students enrolled in various innovative on-campus and distance education programs.

National awards of excellence and the awarding of accreditation from the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN) are consistent reminders of the School’s commitment to foster the personal and professional growth of students and to the delivery of exceptional nursing education. The hallmark of the School of Nursing at St. Francis Xavier University is the caliber of its graduates who are known nationally and internationally to be extraordinarily caring, compassionate, competent, conscientious, and committed professional nurses.

Core Values

We, the SON, value excellence in all scholarly and professional pursuits, integrity in all endeavors and encounters, accountability for one’s actions and decisions, social justice as a means to an end and an end in itself (CNA, 2006), acceptance of and respect for uniqueness and diversity, innovation and creativity in teaching, collaboration with students and stakeholders (including clients), commitment to continuing competence, and service to the profession and the wider community.


The School of Nursing (SON) philosophy statement explicates the nature of persons, health, environment, nursing, nursing education, and nursing scholarship from the perspective of its members. It builds on the mission of the SON and provides the philosophical basis for the nursing program’s purpose, goals and objectives, and curriculum design. While recognizing the diversity of philosophical thought that currently exists among nursing scholars, the espoused values and beliefs of the SON regarding nursing’s metaparadigm concepts are primarily influenced by socio-ecological thought and the tenets of self-care.

The Nature of Persons

The nature of persons reflects the variable nature of client (e.g., populations, communities) and the nuances of nursing practice as enacted in various specialty areas (e.g., perinatal) and settings (e.g., community). Persons are viewed as embodied beings who live, function, and develop physiologically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually in their environments as unique individuals and as members of families, groups, communities, and populations. They influence and are influenced by their environments. Persons have the capacity to know by sensing, reflecting, reasoning, and understanding. Persons uniquely experience and assign meaning to common human experiences. They are capable of possessing an awareness of self and the environment, making decisions, and engaging in deliberative action to attain ends or goals. Persons have free will and the right to make choices; yet, they “have requirements and responsibilities for self-maintenance, self-management, care of dependents, and fulfillment of their human potential” (Orem, 2001, p. viii). 

The SON embraces the view that all  people  possess the gift of intrinsic worth, irrespective of social status, race, culture, ethnicity, gender, achievement, utility, desirability, physical or mental ability, personal values, beliefs, preferences or practices, and so forth. “To be a person is always to be in relationship, to live in a community of persons, to seek a community embraced by love …as the human person is created from love, for love, to be love (Roach, 2002, p.8).” As an element of human love, people possess an innate capacity to care and show concern for others. In the unfolding of this capacity, human development and human fulfillment are achieved (Roach, 2002), and the moral response of reverence is expressed and preserved.

The Nature of Health (and Well-Being)

In attempting to be comprehensive, the SON endorses several different, but compatible and expanding, perspectives on the nature of health: the health of individuals, families, communities, and populations, which subsumes groups. Health as a multi-dimensional concept has physical, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects. It is influenced by several, often interrelated, determinants: income and social status, social support networks, education and literacy, employment/working conditions, social environments, physical environments, personal health practices and coping skills, healthy child development, biology and genetic endowment, health services, gender, and culture (Health Canada, 2002). As such, health is a societal responsibility as well as an individual one (Orem, 2001).

Personal health and its counterpart, well-being, are two different, but related, human states (Orem, 2001). Health represents a state of structural and functional wholeness or integrity and not merely the absence of disease; whereas well-being refers to the individual’s “perceived condition of existence” (p. 186).

Well-being is “characterized by experiences of contentment, pleasure, and kinds of happiness; by spiritual experiences; by movement toward fulfillment of one’s ideal; and by continuing personalization” (Orem, 2001, p. 186). Although the experience of well-being is “associated with health, …success in personal endeavors, and …sufficiency of resources”, individuals may still experience well-being “under conditions of adversity, including disorders of human structure and functioning” (Orem, 2001, p. 186)

Deliberate action, known as self-care, is necessary for maintaining health. Such action evolves from a base of education in self-care acquired in the home, at school, and from practical experiences in self-care (Orem, 2001). The performance of self-care activities fulfills those self-care requisites that maintain life, health, continuing development, and a sense of well-being.

Given the complex interactions between social and economic factors, the physical environment, and behavior that influence health, approaches to promote, maintain, and restore health of individuals, families, groups, communities, and populations must extend beyond self-care to include socio-ecological approaches which, in addition to the goal stated above, also work toward eliminating health disparities. Out of necessity, socio-ecological approaches must be multi-sectoral and collaborative in nature.

The SON espouses the Vanier Institute of the Family’s definition of family as any combination of two or more persons who are bound together over time by ties of mutual consent, birth, and/or adoption or placement and who, together, assume responsibility for variant combinations of some of the following: physical maintenance and care of group members; addition of new members through procreation or adoption; socialization of children; social control of members; production, consumption, distribution of goods and services; and, affective nurturance ¾ love”.

As such, the family is the primary social context in which self-care is learned and enacted. The health of the family unit is influenced by many factors (e.g., relationships, beliefs, values, practices, economic resources, political and policy decision-making contexts, geographical boundaries, coping capacity, support systems, and access to health care services). These in turn influence the health of its members, the community, and the larger population. A healthy family is one that is able to integrate the need for stability with the need for growth and change, …has a structure that allows adaptable performance of tasks and acceptance of help from outside the family system, … has control over the environment, [and] …exerts influence on the immediate environment of home, neighborhood, and school (Ross-Kerr & Wood, 2006, pp. 299-300).

A healthy community is one that possesses the following attributes: a clean and safe environment; peace, equity, and social justice; adequate access to food, water, shelter, income, safety, work, and recreation for all; adequate health care services; opportunities for learning and skill development; strong, mutually supportive relationships and networks; workplaces that are supportive of individual and family well-being; wide participation of residents in decision making; strong local cultural and spiritual heritage; diverse and vital economy, protection of the natural environment; and, responsible use of resources to ensure long term sustainability (Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition, 2003)

“A healthy population is composed of healthy individuals, and the health of individuals is considered an overall aggregate that reflects an average or general healthiness or health status” (Ross-Kerr & Wood, 2006, p. 53). The health status of a population is determined and measured by such indicators as well-being, life expectancy, incidence and prevalence rates, crude death rate, mortality rates, burden of illness, and case fatality rate (Shah, 2003) as well as by the influence of the determinants of health as outlined above. 

The Nature of Environment

Persons exist within complex interacting physical, chemical, biologic, and socioeconomic-cultural environments that influence their self-care requisites and their self-care capabilities and in turn positively or negatively affect their lives, health, development, and well-being (Orem, 2001). Ideally, persons are capable of controlling, protecting, or improving certain aspects of their environments in the interest of maintaining life, healthy functioning, continuing development, and well-being. 

However, for those aspects of the environment that are not amenable to action at the personal level (e.g., poverty, oppression, climate change) and also influence the health of collectives (i.e., families, groups, local and global communities, and populations), action at the community level involving interdisciplinary collaboration and multi-sectoral collaboration between the health care sector and others such as government, education, agriculture, business, to mention a few, is required (Ross-Kerr & Wood, 2006). By incorporating and promoting the principles of primary health care (CNA, 2003) in the delivery of services in various settings, such action to enhance the health of individuals, families, groups, communities, and populations is achievable while simultaneously working toward creating a model of care that is affordable, accessible, equitable, participatory, and sustainable.

The Nature of Nursing

We, the SON, recognize nursing as both a practical science and an art. The science of nursing seeks generalizable knowledge for the practical end of nursing. The art of nursing is “the ability to nurse well” (Johnson, 1991, p. 10). The art of nursing implies the achievement of a particular end or goal in a particular client situation and thus embodies scientific knowledge, skill, understanding of the particular situation, and prudent judgment (Johnson, 1991). The establishment of a nurse-client relationship and a committed stance on the part of the nurse is assumed (Hawley, 2005, p.13). Intuition, wisdom, creativity, moral insight, and personal knowledge of both client and self also contribute to the achievement of particular ends or goals and, therefore, also fall under the rubric of nursing art (Hawley, 2005). That being said, the knowledge used within nursing is multi-faceted, comprising both theoretical and practical knowledge, and necessarily requires methodological pluralism for its development.

Nursing, as a human service, is concerned with what is good and desirable for human beings (e.g. health and well-being) and thus constitutes a moral enterprise. Caring is an important and essential aspect of nursing, providing the moral impetus to act and signifying the affect that, when conveyed, humanizes care in a way that is therapeutic (Hawley, 2005).

At the individual or personal level, the goal of nursing is to promote, maintain, and restore health and well-being through self-care. At the collective level, the goal of nursing also includes eliminating health disparities. Accordingly, nursing actions also embrace advocating for healthy public policy, collaborating with multiple sectors, and engaging in socio-political action (Ogilvie & Reutter, 2003).

The Nature of Nursing Education

In the broadest sense, and in keeping with the University’s liberal arts focus, the SON aspires to provide an educational experience that fosters life-long learning and nurtures the development of the whole person in service to humanity. The development of the whole person goes beyond the development of intellect and encompasses the emotional, socio-cultural, and spiritual dimensions of personhood. The liberal arts focus plays a critical role in developing practitioners of nursing who think critically, rationally, reflectively, and creatively, problem solve effectively, and assume leadership roles in a rapidly changing health care environment.

In keeping with a balanced and dynamic approach to education, the nursing curriculum is based on an eclectic philosophical approach that incorporates the principles of adult learning and employs a variety of traditional and innovative teaching strategies with the intent to equip beginning practitioners for professional nursing practice that is based on empiric, ethical, personal, aesthetic, and emancipatory knowledge (Chinn & Kramer, 2008). Consequently, the curriculum represents an intentional blending of professional nursing courses with liberal arts and science courses. Evidence-informed practice is emphasized in conjunction with understanding of the particular client situation, skill, and artistic nursing prudence in achieving particular ends or goals.

Teaching is an interactive process that facilitates learning, enhances praxis, and raises socio-political awareness. It requires attentiveness to best practices in education. Learning is part of the growth process and the means by which skills, knowledge, values, attitudes, and emotions are acquired. Learning is influenced by the context in which it occurs, the ability, motivation, and stance of the student, and the extent to which the student is actively involved, self-directed, and values the content being learned. Learning is both hierarchical (i.e., it progresses from simple to complex, concrete to abstract, and known to unknown) and circuitous. Reflection on experience serves as a rich resource. Learning is enhanced in a climate of physical comfort, mutual trust and respect, openness, and acceptance of differences and when past experience is acknowledged and valued. Learning is a life-long process and, for the professional nurse, a life-long commitment.

Students have preferred styles of learning and are exposed to an array of teaching strategies. They are expected to take ownership of their learning, utilize and integrate previous knowledge, skill, understanding, and experience, identify their strengths and areas in need of improvement, and, in collaboration with faculty members or clinical associates, devise and implement appropriate strategies to address their individual learning needs. Students require opportunities to give and receive constructive feedback and ought to participate in ongoing curriculum evaluation and design.

Faculty members and clinical associates are mentors and role models. They possess expert knowledge and engage in evaluative processes that determine student progression. Despite the teacher-learner power differential, faculty members and clinical associates are considered to be partners in the learning process. In the presence of learning challenges they work collaboratively with students in an attempt to achieve student success. They set clear and realistic expectations and their evaluative processes are consistent and fair. They are concerned about student well-being and, to the extent possible, accommodate individual or personal needs.

Faculty members and clinical associates strive to be non-threatening and supportive of students in creating and maintaining a safe learning environment. They reward curiosity, stimulate critical thinking, cultivate self-reflection, foster self-directedness, promote leadership skill development, enhance problem solving ability, and encourage independence.

The Nature of Nursing Scholarship

The SON recognizes the interdependence of professional practice, education, and scholarship, and considers engagement in scholarly activity to be integral to actualizing its mission. Scholarship drives excellence and encompasses a full range of intellectual and creative activities…to advance teaching, research, practice, and professional service outside of the academic setting (CASN, 2006). The SON endorses CASN’s definition of scholarship which embraces the scholarship of discovery, the scholarship of teaching, the scholarship of service, the scholarship of application, and the scholarship of integration.

Approved by the SON: June 2008
Minor revisions: December 2008

Statement of Program Purpose and Goals

The StFXU educational unit offers a program of study leading to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Variation within this program of study (e.g., time frame for completion, program requirements, and course sequence) accommodates undergraduate transfer students, post-degree students, aboriginal students, and those students who possess diploma preparation in nursing. A designation of Advanced Major or Honours is available to qualifying students. The purpose in all program options is to prepare professional nurses who are proactive and responsive to the changing health needs of society and able to engage in safe, competent, compassionate, and ethical evidence-informed nursing practice with clients across the life span and in a variety of settings. The program also provides a solid foundation for graduates who wish to pursue specialization in nursing, advanced nursing practice roles, or study at the graduate level. 

Program Goals

Irrespective of the program option completed, graduates will be able to:

  1. Engage in evidenced-informed professional nursing practice that is directed toward promoting health, preventing illness, managing disease processes, restoring optimal function, and alleviating suffering in clients across the life span in a variety of settings and in accordance with the Standards for Nursing Practice (CRNNS, 2004), the Entry-level Competencies (CRNNS, 2009), and the CNA Code of Ethics (2008).
  2. Incorporate and promote the principles of primary health care and population health.
  3. Address the determinants of health throughout all phases of the nursing process.
  4. Apply professional, ethical/moral, and legal standards in decision-making with respect to health and health care delivery.
  5. Act and interact in a caring and professional manner.
  6. Demonstrate accountability and responsibility in all nursing actions and interactions.
  7. Implement nursing practice models that promote the principles of self-care and societal responsibility.
  8. Uphold the ideals of social justice, inclusivity, and equity through respectfulness, cultural safety, and cultural competence.
  9. Support inter-disciplinary and multi-sectoral collaborative participation in health care delivery and research.
  10. Use facilitative and deliberate interaction in all client encounters.
  11. Employ leadership and advocacy skills to positively impact on population health and health care policy.
  12. Participate in activities that foster personal growth and continuing competence.
  13. Exemplify professional nursing practice that is proactive and responsive to the changing health needs of society.
  14. Demonstrate critical thinking, flexibility, and creativity in unpredictable and complex situations.

Approved by the SON: June 2008
Minor revisions: March 2009


Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing. (2006). CASN Position Statement on scholarship in nursing. Ottawa, ON: Author.

Canadian Nurses Association. (2008). Code of ethics for registered nurses. Ottawa, ON: Author.

Canadian Nurses Association. (2003, September). Primary Health Care – the time has come. Nursing Now, 16, 1-4.

Canadian Nurses Association. (2006). Social justice…a means to an end, an end in itself. Ottawa, ON: Author.

Chinn, P. L., & Kramer, M. K. (2008). Integrated theory and knowledge development in nursing (7th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Mosby.

CRNNS. (2009). Entry-level competencies for registered nurses in Nova Scotia. Halifax, NS: Author.

Hawley, M. P. (2005). Making a difference in critical care nursing practice: An interpretive inquiry. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB.

Health Canada. (2002). Population health challenges: What determines health? Ottawa, ON: Author.

Johnson, J, L. (1991). Nursing science: Basic, applied, or practical? Implications for the art of nursing. Advances in Nursing Science, 4(1), 7-16.

Ogilvie, L., & Reutter, L. (2003). Primary health care: Complexities and possibilities from a nursing perspective. In J. C. Ross-Kerr & M. Wood (Eds), Canadian nursing: Issues and perspectives (4th ed., pp. 441-465. Toronto, ON: Mosby.

Orem, D.E. (2001). Nursing: Concepts of practice (6th ed.). St. Louis: Mosby.

Roach, S. (2002). Caring, the human mode of being: A blueprint for the health professions (2nd rev. ed.). Ottawa, ON: CHA Press.

Ross-Kerr, J. C., & Wood, M. J. (2006). Canadian fundamentals of nursing. Toronto, ON: Elsevier Mosby.

Shah, C. P. (2003). Public health and preventive medicine in Canada (5th ed.). Toronto, ON: W. B. Saunders.

Vanier Institute of the Family. (2007). Definition of family. Retrieved from http://www.vifamily.ca/about/definition.html