“I obtained a Diploma of Nursing in Winnipeg in 1972, but it was only when I began working in the Mental Health field several years later that I realized nursing was the profession for me. I had a curiosity about people and how the human psyche works,” she said. “Nursing channelled my long-standing interest in helping others. Seeing people learn and grow was intriguing.”
Teaching clinical nursing soon became Toni’s passion and she spent her next 20 years as a health educator. She worked in a variety of teaching settings across Western Canada including Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, Douglas College in New Westminster, and Red River Community College in Winnipeg. In 1986, she left her teaching position at Red River College to facilitate the implementation of a diploma nursing program at Keewatin College in The Pas, in Northern Manitoba. “Many of the nursing students were First Nations. We used skills like sitting in silence, listening, reflecting, and only then giving thoughtful responses. I learned that responding too quickly to someone’s question could be considered dismissive.” Toni already had her BSN 1981 from the University of Victoria and decided that a Masters Degree would give her career mobility as well as a better theoretical foundation for her burgeoning teaching career.
For more than a decade after graduating with her MSN in 1988, Toni was a Nursing Instructor at Kwantlen College (now Kwantlen Polytechnic University). One highlight at Kwantlen was delivering a third-year nursing course in Nepal, giving students and teachers an opportunity to apply the principles of community development in an international setting. Working at high-altitude with the poverty-stricken Nepalese villagers helped students and faculty appreciate cultural differences in a nuanced light, and sometimes challenged western health care beliefs.
The MSN also provided surprisingly transferable skills for other industries. Toni spent a year developing curriculum with a Vancouver hair salon academy leading to their accreditation with the Post Secondary Education Commission. She also worked for four years in the tourism industry in BC, developing infrastructure, company policies, employment guidelines, as well as facilitating strategic planning with the Vancouver Trolley Company and West Coast City and Nature Tours.
Since retirement in 2002, Toni has had many adventures such as circumnavigating Mont Blanc in Europe, hiking Machu Picchu in Peru, and spending time with The Hugging Saint, Amma at her ashram, Amritapuri in South India. Currently Toni volunteers at Theatre Terrific, a Vancouver theatre company for artists with disabilities.
By Paula Stromberg