Date of Submission


Document Type



Doctor of Education




student distress, early recognition, nursing, capacity building, student support, faculty well-being


As higher educational institutions face a growing demand to graduate more nurses, and mental health and life stresses are recognized as increasing obstacles to student success, the timing is right for nursing programs to evaluate their traditionally rigorous program cultures. At Sunrise University in Western Canada, nursing students make up a large population seeking support services, and there is an increasing need for capacity building in faculty to support learners who are in distress. In this organizational improvement plan (OIP), I explore what can be enhanced or further developed to create more effective support for students who are in distress or who are notably struggling. Early recognition of distress can prevent issues from escalating and, in turn, promote retention, ability to learn, social justice, and student wellness. To achieve this desired state, which aligns with Sunrise University’s strategic plan, I propose the creation of a professional learning community to collaborate with faculty to bring awareness about distress while also nurturing their well-being amidst heavy workloads. Through transformative and shared leadership approaches, this OIP is framed by critical and systems organizational theories, with intersectional and cultural theoretical lenses. The ADKAR change model is used to develop a strategic implementation plan, with appreciative and PDSA inquiry cycles woven through as we monitor and evaluate progress. Future considerations include how to move toward progression policy change and collaboration with the healthcare system to influence a supportive and caring learning environment.