Gwen’s commitment to the care of children with cardiac disease has been a lifelong passion. In her BSN program, under the supervision of Dr. Virginia (Jinny) Hayes, she did an honours project on the topic of The needs of parents of children with congenital heart disease. After two years of general duty nursing at R.W. Large Memorial Hospital, Waglisla, BC, Gwen returned to Vancouver and took up a position at British Columbia’s Children’s Hospital, where she progressed in responsibility from staff nurse to head nurse and to nurse clinician in the Cardiology/Cardiac Surgery Unit. Gwen returned to the School of Nursing part-time during those years to complete her master’s, which included a thesis on the topic of Knowing but not knowing: Parent’s experience of antenatal diagnosis of congenital heart disease (CHD) under the supervision under the supervision of Dr. Judith Lynam. Gwen completed the qualifications to be promoted to the position of Clinical Nurse Specialist in the Cardiac Sciences Program and was one of the first advanced practice nurses to work in fetal cardiology. For a couple of years, she balanced that challenging position with some sessional teaching at the UBC School of Nursing, before she was recruited to Trinity Western University’s School of Nursing as an Assistant Professor in 1995.
In 1999, Gwen relocated to Edmonton, where she began doctoral studies in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Alberta. Over the next several years she immersed in intensive doctoral training, taking on a series of research assistant positions with various faculty members on a range of projects, and completing her dissertation on the topic of Parenting a child with hypoplastic left heart syndrome whose treatment includes the Norwood surgical approach under the supervision of Dr. Margaret J. Harrison in 2005. She then proceeded into postdoctoral training in both Qualitative Methods and Family Caregiving.
In 2006, Gwen was appointed into a tenure-track faculty position at the U of A, and was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor with tenure in 2012. The following year, she was recruited to Athabasca University’s Centre for Nursing & Health Studies in the Faculty of Health Disciplines as Associate Professor and Program Director for the Master of Health Studies/Master of Nursing: Generalist degree programs. She was again tenured in 2015 and in 2016 became the Chair for the Centre for Nursing and Health Studies and Graduate Programs at that institution.
Over the years, Gwen has had a marvelous research career, obtaining competitive funding from such organizations as the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, Canadian Nurses Foundation, and the Nursing Care Partnership of the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation. She has published over 45 scholarly papers in peer reviewed journals, with such titles as: Is “Treat your child normally” helpful advice for parents of survivors of treatment of hypoplastic left heart syndrome?; The process of family management when a baby is diagnosed with a lethal congenital condition; and Parenting under pressure: A grounded theory of parenting young children with life-threatening congenital heart disease. Over time, her focus has expanded beyond the specialty focus of children with cardiac conditions and their families into a range of innovative interventions, such as Texting teens in transition: The use of text messages in clinical intervention research. She has been sought after as a keynote speaker, such as her 2016 talk on Parenting under pressure; Nursing research with and for parents of children with complex congenital heart disease for the Congenital Cardiac Nurses Association at the Annual Meeting of the British Congenital Cardiac Association in Nottingham, England, and another talk on Supporting parents of children with HLHS: Is a resilience lens still best? For the 50th Annual Meeting of the Association for European Paediatric and Congenital Cardiology in Rome, Italy later that same year. The College and Association of Registered Nurses in Alberta has recently awarded Gwen with an Award of Nursing Excellence in Research (2019).
Beyond her research and scholarly activity, Gwen has an abiding commitment to high quality education so that nurses can take their rightful place in all clinical settings as critical thinkers, knowledge brokers, and professional leaders. She has supervised legions of graduate students, and mentors a team of expert nurse educators who are part of the Athabasca University graduate nursing program delivery process. As Athabasca delivers its programs online, Gwen has become a national leader in strategic directions in online professional program delivery.
UBC School of Nursing is incredibly proud of the leadership careers that so many of our graduates go on to have. What a contribution Gwen is making to the world of nursing and health care!
Submitted by Gwem Rempel and Sally Thorne (2019)