Elizabeth Andersen

Elizabeth Andersen

The University of British Columbia, Canada

Title: Distractions for dialogue


Elizabeth Andersen is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing, Faculty of Health and Social Development, University of British Columbia. Her program of research has two streams. The fi rst is focused on exploring specifi c components of nursing home cultural change models and their effects on residents, families and paid caregivers. The second is education particularly undergraduate nursing education, student readiness and acculturation to practice. She is especially interested in the working conditions and expanding roles of more marginalized nursing home employees (care aides).


In this presentation, I describe and demonstrate an activity that clinical nursing instructors can easily use during post conferences to encourage refl ection, inspire, refresh and support nursing students. Th is activity is also comforting for students who are distressed and is congruent with the middle range theory of comfort. Th e activity builds on the role of the unconscious mind, the default network and the concept of distraction. Researchers have found that creative and unique thoughts or ideas occur more oft en to people who are engaged in a distracting activity than to people who are actively engaged in focused, deliberative and conscious eff orts to generate original opinions or ideas. Additionally, those who are pressed to think in situ by someone else (for example by an instructor) will generate only the most readily accessible ideas and perform less creatively than those who are not as focused on the problem at hand. Th e goal of a distracting activity during post conference is to “occupy conscious attention” to allow more divergent and less accessible ideas to surface. Th ese ideas are associated with the default network; regions in the brain that are most active when the brain is allowed to rest and wander. Distracting activities that are enjoyable, not too demanding and can be sustained for more than just a few minutes work better for idea generation and refl ection than demanding, unpleasant distracting tasks that cannot be tolerated for more than a few minutes.