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Olga Petrovskaya, PhD

Assistant Professor


About Me

Prior to calling Edmonton home in January 2017, I completed my PhD in Nursing at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. The title of my dissertation is Postmodern and Post-Structural Theory in Nursing—A Comparison of American and Selected Non-American Nursing Literature from the Late 1980s to 2015 (Supervisor Dr. M. E. Purkis). In the dissertation, I examined how nurse scholars applied various social science theories to advance nursing knowledge. Specifically, I compared a conception of theory underpinning American ‘nursing theory’ and more recent Australian, British, and Canadian nursing writings informed by continental philosophy and French social theory (e.g., the work of Michel Foucault). Analyzing American nursing theory, I drew on powerful criticisms by M. Risjord and J. Paley. Analyzing social-theory informed and Foucauldian nursing scholarship, I delved into a wide array of publications: ethnographies of nursing practice by C. May, M. E. Purkis, T. Rudge, Davina Allen, C. Ceci; philosophical musings of John Drummond and G. Rolfe; self-proclaimed “war-machine” provocations by Dave Holmes and his nurse colleagues at the UofOttawa; historical excursions by S. Nelson; as well as theoretically-sophisticated writings by American nurse scholars M. Sandelowski, J. Liaschenko, and David Allen. Inspired by this heterogeneous group of writings, I argued for the importance of these selected theory-informed, empirical studies of nursing practice for helping nursing students understand, and possibly influence, the realities of contemporary nursing work. 

My Doctoral studies were supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Joseph-Armand Bombardier Graduate Scholarship $105,000 in 2009-2012.


My research and scholarly interests are:

  • Electronic patient portal, eHealth, Information and Communication Technology

(organizational & socio-cultural factors, policy context; provider and patient experiences & attitudes; effects on provider workflow & clinical outcomes; use over time)

  • Philosophy in nursing & socio-material theory (continental philosophy; theory-informed field studies of health care)

  • Child health & interprofessional pediatric health care practice

  • Research methodologies:

      -Mixed-method research

            -Ethnography, comparative case study, & discourse analysis

            -Systematic literature review, scoping & umbrella reviews

Research grants:

Petrovskaya O.
(PI), Watson L., Easaw J. (co-Is). Alberta cancer patients’ experiences of a novel, quicker access to their test results via an online patient portal: Survey development and pilot testing.   

Funded by the Faculty of Nursing Endowment Fund for the Future: Support for the Advancement of Scholarship (EFF-SAS) grant $10,000

(Jan 2019 – Dec 2019)

Petrovskaya O. (PI), Ali S., Graham T., Amirav I., Makhinova T. (co-Is). The effects of implementing MyChart patient portal on health provider workflow and patient satisfaction in the Stollery pediatric respirology clinic: a pilot ethnographic case study.

Funded by Women and Children’s Health Research Institute WCHRI CRISP Grant $20,000

(June 2018 - May 2021)

Petrovskaya O. (PI). Assembling evidence on electronic patient portals: A systematic literature review.

Funded by UofA Faculty of Nursing Research Establishment Grant $16,500

(August 2017 - July 2020)


My philosophy of teaching is shaped by the ideas of the Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), originated by Lev Vygotsky in his work in cultural-historical psychology in the 1930s. Vygotsky’s work is widely known in the West, although interpretation and application of these ideas vary among disciplines and authors. Kaptelinin and Nardi (2006) summarize activity theory thus: 1) humans act collectively, learn by doing, and communicate in and via their actions; 2) humans make, employ, and adapt tools of all kinds to learn and communicate; and 3) community is central to the process of making and interpreting meaning – and thus to all forms of learning, communicating, and acting. I find particularly useful and insightful how a Finnish education professor Yrjö Engeström applies CHAT in researching social interaction in health care and education (From Teams to Knots: Activity-Theoretical Studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work, 2007). 

My specific pedagogical approaches are inspired by witty and practical presentations and writings of an American education professor Maryellen Weimer. Her nuggets of wisdom appear regularly in the Faculty Focus newsletter.