Lakehead University Nursing students learn about caring by facing themselves and others

 Socorro Woodman paints the outside of her mask, inspired by the way she believes people see her.

Socorro Woodman paints the outside of her mask, inspired by the way she believes people see her.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014 – Thunder Bay, ON

More than 200 Lakehead University students recently learned about the human face of caring through an interactive mask-making project that will help shape the nurses that they will become.

The goal is to teach Bachelor of Science in Nursing students about caring by helping them understand themselves, others and the world they live in. 

The project, called An Aesthetic Expression of Caring Through Mask Making and Storytelling, was funded by the Associated Medical Services Phoenix Foundation: Call for Caring Grant.

During one of the first days of class, last September, first-year Bachelor of Science Nursing students were paired with a complete stranger from their class whom they would make a mask with.

“This experience was hands-on, nitty-gritty reflective learning,” said Socorro Woodman, a student who participated in the project. “Not only did we wrap plastic and then layers of plaster over a stranger’s face, but then we had that done to ourselves.”

“Trusting someone to cover your mouth and nose, however brief, is incredibly humbling,” Woodman said.

Dr. Michelle Spadoni, Associate Professor in the School of Nursing, explained the concept of the design of the inside and outside of the students’ masks: “The outside of their masks is painted to represent the way students believe people see them while the inside is painted the way students see themselves.”

Students began the project by communicating with their partner through a website, having never met them, previously. They then had to find and get to know their partner on the first day of class.

While making the mask, they had to cover their partner’s face with plastic wrap, providing a small hole to breathe through. Next, four layers of plaster were applied to the person’s face. After 45 minutes, the mask was removed and the other person’s mask was applied.

“As a group, we were immediately vulnerable to each other’s stories and we connected deeply with each other from the very get-go,” said Heidi Zettel, a student who participated in the project.

“We learned that knowing our self directly relates to the quality of care we will be able to provide to our future patients. We are now more aware that every person has their own story and that each of those stories is invaluable. I feel very thankful for this experience,” Zettel added.

The masks are displayed along Lakehead University’s The Row — along the second-floor hall where Administration’s offices are located in the University Centre — until the end of March.

“The Row is our very own art gallery and a hallmark of our students’ creativity,” said Lakehead President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Brian Stevenson. “These masks are not only another example of the imagination of our students; they illustrate the importance of believing in yourself and connecting with others.”

These colourful and unique expressions of self and identity also represent a partnership between faculty in Lakehead University’s School of Nursing, the Office of Aboriginal Initiatives and Department of Athletics.

Dr. Michelle Spadoni, Dr. Pat Sevean, and the Director of the School of Nursing, Karen Poole, will present the project’s outcomes at two national conferences:

Canadian Association of School of Nursing — Nursing Education Conference (Halifax) May 25-28th, 2014 (both poster and paper presentation); 

Canadian Conference on Medical Education — Creating Space IV Conference (Ottawa) April 25 & 26, 2014 poster and panel guest of Dr. Brian Hodges (Project Lead AMS Phoenix Foundation Call for Caring Grant). 



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In 2015, Lakehead University will celebrate 50 years of exceptional education. Guided by a new Strategic Plan (2013-2018), our University is known for providing an education focused on independent thinking, unconventional scholarship, and a close sense of community. About 9,700 students and 2,000 faculty and staff learn and work in ten faculties at two campuses, in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Home to Ontario’s first new Faculty of Law in 44 years (Fall 2013) and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine's West Campus, Lakehead is among Canada’s Top 10 undergraduate universities (2014 Maclean’s University Rankings), as well as 1st in Ontario and 2nd in Canada for its innovative research (Re$earch Infosource). Our Orillia campus is the first in North America to be built entirely to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) standards. Share your Lakehead story as it relates to our Strategic Plan at, and learn more about Lakehead at