“I find inspiration by surrounding myself with radical, political, awesome people who do important work. They remind me of what is possible and what I am capable of doing.”
My name is Amanda Goulding and I am a recent UBC School of Nursing Graduate! I am a cis, queer, fat woman who is of settler decent from the Snuneymuxw nation. During my tenure at UBC, I ran for and attained the position of Chair of the Diversity Committee for the Canadian Nursing Students Association (CNSA) — a national board of directors that represents nursing students across the country. I attended national board meetings where I advocated for marginalized voices in the field of nursing and chaired the committee that brought together voices of nursing students across Canada to implement different health equity objectives. For instance, we created a “Diversity Pocketbook” — a file that anyone could print at home and fold into a booklet that had different diversity promoting topics like the American Sign Language alphabet, and an Indigenous Cultural Competency worksheet. I also was given the opportunity to imagine, plan and execute a national diversity committee at UBC.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE NURSING?
I came into nursing after working in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside at a local non-profit that supports many different marginalized populations in a city that is increasingly unaffordable and gentrified. I witnessed the incredible work that outreach nurses do for some of the most marginalized people — survivors of residential schools, folks with alcohol and substance use disorders, people struggling with mental illness, sex workers, immigrants and members of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community. I never knew that the nursing profession was so flexible!
WHAT HAS MADE YOUR TIME AT UBC THE MOST MEMORABLE?
My time was made incredible by the community of other like-minded, wonderfully radical people in my cohort. I was fortunate to have been accepted into the nursing program at the same time as some of the bravest, smartest, most compassionate people I have ever met.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED IN NURSING THAT IS MOST VALUABLE?
Our cohort was the first to have an Indigenous Health Advocacy course — taught by Dr. Helen Brown — which was one of the most important topics I explored throughout my time at the School of Nursing. While I had previous cultural sensitivity/competency training through my work at RainCity Housing, the learning experience in the classroom was beyond anything I have experienced in a post-secondary education environment. The classrooms were experiential in that they were mostly all taught by Indigenous people with experiential learning rather than Western ways of learning. It was incredible to witness and take part in.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE/VALUABLE NON-ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE STUDYING NURSING AT UBC?
It would definitely be the Diversity Conference that UBC helped me run last December with the CNSA. This conference brought together incredible speakers who were both peers and professionals. The topics included a community health panel (discussing how public health nursing has changed in the era of the opioid epidemic), a lecture on how deaf and hard of hearing individuals are routinely excluded from health literacy by a deaf UBC professor, a presentation by a fellow CNSA board member on her research on opioid use during pregnancy, a discussion led by a peer named Pete about his previous experiences being homeless, a lecture by a UBC faculty of medicine on engaging aboriginal peoples into health care, a seminar on how the health care system is biased and harmful to its fat patients by the founder of Fat Panic!, and finally, a panel on the experiences of folks with intersecting identities affect their experiences in health care (all members of the panel were non-white, trans* identifying individuals with mental health diagnoses, among other intersecting identities). We live-streamed the conference so all nursing students across Canada could attend, made the event accessible via donation, and paid each speaker what they asked for. It was such an incredible experience that highlighted all of the advocacy that is possible in the field of nursing.
HOW DO YOU FEEL AN UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE IN NURSING HAS BENEFITTED YOU COMPARED TO A DIFFERENT FIELD OF STUDY?
Prior to working at the non-profit that I’ve been at for the past five years, I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Biology from SFU. I can confidently say that this degree in nursing and my undergrad experience are completely different than my first degree. There, I felt like a student number and not a person; my class sizes were large and I never felt like the program or the professors cared if I succeeded. This was completely opposite to my nursing undergraduate experience. By term two I knew everyone in the program and felt confident that the instructors both knew who I was and cared about my success. In the orientation of my biology degree, they told us that by the end of first year, 75% of us would drop out. In the orientation of my BSN, they told us maybe three or four students would drop out during the entire program, and that they wanted us to support each other so that we all succeeded. The nursing program made sure to personalize my experience and that was unlike any other undergraduate experience I’ve had.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A STUDENT CONSIDERING AN UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE IN NURSING?
I would be honest with them. This program was one of the hardest things that I have ever done in my life. As a person with anxiety and depression, getting through the program was really tough. But I would tell them that it’s possible to get through, and to reach out to fellow students for support. The majority of people who go into nursing sincerely care about serving people, and that is something that almost everyone in the program has in common. Even if not everyone in the program is at the same level as you in terms of politics, academics, life experiences, or whatever else — everyone is there because they want to help people. The hardest part was getting into the program, and I would tell them that they were probably chosen for the program because they were hardworking and compassionate, so I would say to keep remembering that!
WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR INSPIRATION?
I find inspiration by surrounding myself with radical, political, awesome people who do important work. They remind me of what is possible and what I am capable of doing.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Since the UBC Nursing program is so short compared to other nursing school programs, I plan on consolidating my skills working at a medical-surgical floor at a local hospital. I currently have two interviews scheduled at Saint Paul’s Hospital (SPH) — I really hope they go well! Since I have spent the past few years working with folks in the Downtown Eastside, I am hoping to work on the dedicated floor at SPH called the Urban Health unit to continue working with this amazing population. At one of the last nursing conferences I attended, the BC Nurses Union representative spoke to me about becoming a new grad representative to help mentor nursing students transition into the profession, and to help advocate for new nurses to the union. I would love to continue advocating for colleagues in the future — advocacy is one of my favourite components of the nursing profession! Long-term, I would love to get into wound care and ostomy nursing (WOCN). I love how every wound care case is like a puzzle to be solved and how every WOCN I have met has so much autonomy and seem to love their work so much.
HOW WILL YOU GO ON TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN OUR WORLD?
I think that all of us are trying to make this world a little bit better. For me, that looks like advocating for vulnerable populations who are marginalized by oppressive systems in place. I would love to see a world where a person with substance use disorder could come into the hospital and wasn’t automatically labelled as “drug seeking.” I want to lead by example and provide competent and relational care to all patients, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, political beliefs, weight, housing status or anything else. At the end of the day, every person deserves to be treated with respect when interacting with health care, and that’s how I will make a difference.
Material provided by the Rising Stars Applied Science 2019 interviews: https://apsc.ubc.ca/spotlight/Amanda-Goulding