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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 prior to current employment with the UofA included:  

  • Nursing scholarship informed by Continental philosophy (e.g., contemporary French thought in nursing, phenomenological nursing research)
  • Metatheoretical nursing issues - status of theory in the discipline of nursing 
  • Philosophical inquiry
  • Rhetorical aspects of nursing philosophical scholarship
  • Qualitative research methodologies - general aspects 
  • Historical and professional trends in nursing practice and scholarship (e.g., professional self-regulation, interprofessional practice)
  • The notion of the difficult patient
  • Pediatric nursing
  • Nephrology nursing
  • Electronic Health Record 

Current research and scholarly interests

Although my doctoral work had a philosophical / theoretical bent, my clinical background is in pediatrics. I am interested in developing my program of empirical, theory-informed research in relation to the following topics/fields/ subjects:

  1. Child health & interprofessional pediatric health care practice
    - Theory-informed field studies (i.e., ethnography) of pediatric nursing practice
    - The “difficult patient/family” in the context of pediatric nursing practice

  2. Electronic health record & patient portals (implementation; provider and patient experiences and attitudes; effects on provider workflow)
    - Implementation of MyChart patient portal in the Stollery outpatient clinics

  3. Understanding the notion of the “difficult patient” in health care

  4. Research methodologies
    - Ethnography, comparative case study, and discourse analysis
    - Systematic literature review
    - Mixed-methods research 

Recently submitted grants

Petrovskaya O. (PI) Understanding the phenomenon of the “difficult patient” in health care: A systematic literature review. Faculty of Nursing Research Establishment Grant $16,500 (August 2017- July 2020)

Amirav I. (PI), Graham T., Ali S., Majaesic C., Petrovskaya O. (co-Is), Ballerman M., Wandall-Walker V. (Collaborators). The effects of the eCLINICIAN MyChart patient portal on parent-reported quality of care and health system utilization for children with asthma. WCHRI Innovation Grant $50,000. Submitted March 15, 2017 (not funded)


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. 

 During the Fall 2017 term I am teaching:

  • NURS 301 After Degree program Nursing Research (47 students)
  • NURS 303 After Degree program Introduction to Nursing Theory (Two seminar sections; total 44 students)

During the Winter 2018 term I am teaching:

  • NURS 103 Introduction to Nursing Theory (Seminar with approx. 60-70 first-year students)
  • NURS 502 The Nature and Development of Nursing Knowledge (Master’s seminar co-taught with Dr. Ceci) 
I am most proud about the following academic awards and achievements:

  • Nursing Philosophy journal Graduate Student Writing Contest: First prize for the article “Is there Nursing Phenomenology after Paley?” £150 (2013)
  • SSHRC Graduate Scholarship $105,000 (2009-2012)   
  • Bookstore Award for the Highest Grade in the Master’s Course, School of Nursing, Ryerson University, Toronto $75 (2008)
  • Exceptional Scholar Award & Memorial Plaque, School of Nursing, York University, Toronto (2007)