Elsie Tan (MSN ’95)

Elsie Tan is a Senior Instructor with the UBC School of Nursing. She attended BCIT for her basic nurse training, worked for ten years at BC Children’s Hospital and then went to the University of Victoria as a returning RN. After finishing basic nursing at BCIT, she specialized in pediatrics and began her career at BC Children’s Hospital before returning to school. She then completed her MSN at UBC and promised her mother that she would “settle down” before carrying on with further studies. She is still settling down!

Elsie began teaching at UBC (first with VGH) during and after her MSN. She had actually wanted to return to being a CNS, not a teacher (though she had ambitions of becoming a teacher earlier in life). Teaching came naturally to her when she began at UBC instructing first-year students’ labs, then second-year medical/surgical clinical practica, and later, theory classes. She was seconded to the Ministry of Health for one year where she was one of six provincial nursing consultants in the Nursing Respite Program. After completing her master’s degree, she was asked to be a sessional instructor from September to April of the academic year and in May, June and July, she taught at Kwantlen College and the University of Victoria. She had all of August off and usually went travelling.

As a sessional instructor at UBC she taught the pediatric course, co-taught and then led the clinical pediatric course in the Multiple Entry Option Program (MEOP). In 2001, she started teaching a new course – the Social Construction of Health and Illness – continued teaching the “old” pediatric course, and developed and taught the new pediatric course while transitioning to MEOP. Since the transition, she has taught various courses such as the distance education course in independent study and preceptorship. Later on, she became involved in leadership, health promotion, and guest lectured in pediatric courses. She continues to teach the Social Construction of Health and Illness.

Elsie remembers the challenges of the Concepts course she took as a student during her MSN. All of her fellow students found it difficult, and to cope with the difficulty, they joked together after class, asking each other, for example: “How do you define a chair, a shoe?” Although they joked about it, they would end up talking very seriously about the conceptualizations. Through this course they learned how to shift their thinking and how to become more abstract and critical thinkers. To this day, when some of them meet, the question of “so how do you conceptualize …?” is always jokingly raised. Another way Elsie’s small cohort of classmates connected was by joking about their working space and how often they were there. They would all agree not to use the school-shared study space on the weekends but to remain at home and with family but then all would end up on site finding each other in their private space studying hard … “we never listened to each other.”

When asked what she likes best about her work, Elsie replies that it’s the multifaceted nature of her teaching. It gives her the opportunity to keep learning new content and to know what students are learning. She is in a good position to create linkages for them because she knows what they have learned and what is coming up for them. When she has the opportunity to teach a new class, she requests that she teaches it for at least two terms so that she can “experiment” in the first term, and then have time to prepare and streamline or hone it, in the second term.

Outside of work, Elsie loves to do many things but her passions are in dance, travel and cuisine. For Elsie, dancing is about spirit, energy and movement. She has practiced just about every dance form beginning with formal training in ballet, then moving on to tap, jazz, modern, Latin American, and ballroom. She is currently very much into belly-dancing. Elsie says she could dance all day and all night, enjoying losing herself and yet becoming more grounded by doing it. She is married and encourages her husband to ballroom dance with her.

Since childhood, Elsie has greatly enjoyed travel, and has visited most countries in the world. Her parents, and her mother in particular, thought that “the world is the best classroom” so during the school breaks, “we were off somewhere.” She loves hearing different voices, tasting different cuisines and discovering different ways of living and being. She went to Egypt last year and hopes to return to the Middle East and climb Mount Sinai. And the next “must go to” place for Elsie is the Maldives to swim at night in the glowing ocean and before the country disappears entirely.