When Val Cartmel (BSN ’75) enrolled in her first year of sciences at UBC, she had no idea that she was going to be a nurse. Now, she holds a graduate degree in nursing, is the Regional Leader in Clinical Informatics for Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), and has become the President of the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia (CRNBC), the regulatory body for more than 39,000 registered nurses, nurse practitioners and licensed graduate nurses in the province.
The thought of actually being a nurse didn’t occur to Val until the summer between her first and second years. After developing appendicitis and having surgery, “it was like a light bulb went off,” she said. “I realized ‘that’s what I want to be. I want to be a nurse!'” Having no nurses among her family or close community, she had toyed with the idea of going into medicine, but decided on nursing when she saw what nurses actually do in the hospital.
Recovery room experience gained through a student clinical placement at Vancouver General Hospital enabled Val to obtain her first nursing position in that context at Lions Gate Hospital, a posting that was almost unheard of for a new graduate at that time. She stayed on for three years before accepting a teaching position with the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), which she held for 12 years. However, she missed the hospital setting and in 1989 became a nursing manager on a surgical unit at Lions Gate. Computer integration with nursing practice was just beginning, and Val became involved in a computer implementation project. This ultimately led to her current position of leadership in the area of clinical informatics, which she describes as “making sure that technology supports practice and not the other way around. Technology needs to work for the nurses.”
As President of CRNBC, Val has the opportunity to be the eyes and ears of nurses in the province, “to make sure that we have a voice and that people understand what nursing is and what nurses do. This role allows me to go into the nursing community to support nurses in their practice and ensure they meet provincial standards so that the safety of the public is protected.”