Marissa Bird (BSN ’14)

Why did you choose Nursing?
Nursing offers a vast array of challenging and exciting opportunities. I have always been a curious person by nature, and nursing offers the opportunity for a career of lifelong learning. Nurses combine critical thinking, compassion, and advocacy each day in our work, in a variety of different ways. Additionally, the opportunities for growth within the field are endless. The nursing profession is filled with expert practitioners, capable leaders, advocates for social justice, skillful educators, and accomplished researchers. I feel privileged to call myself a nurse. That is what drew me to this incredible field.

Why nursing at UBC?
Attending UBC was the clear choice for me due to its international reputation of excellence in nursing. The nursing faculty at UBC are truly outstanding and I feel fortunate to have been taught by so many exceptional nurses in this program. Even during the long hours and the intense nature of the accelerated program, I always felt supported. As well, UBC has a vast network of excellent clinical partner organizations where students complete their placements. As immersion in practice is such an important part of consolidating skills, this is another crucial piece in the program at UBC.

Tell me about your experience with the School of Nursing. What have you learned that is most valuable?
My journey with the UBC School of Nursing was undeniably intense, but well worth the long hours of studying and all the hard work. From the first day, I had experiences that were unlike anything that I had ever done. It was exciting, thought-provoking and terrifying all at the same time. A lot of the time I would have conversations with my classmates about the feeling of surrealism that you get at times when you do something that you have never done before. For example, I remember the first time I ever saw a woman give birth. In the moment, you’re so focused on tasks, thinking, ‘what can I do to help here?’, but I went home feeling like I just saw the absolute most amazing thing in my life and I couldn’t even put it into words. It’s indescribable.

That being said, the biggest lessons for me haven’t been about the tasks. Witnessing real moments of compassion, grief, and strength have been what has had the biggest impact on me. The real lessons are about being kind to people, learning to listen well and to forgive a bit easier. It’s something that I have tried to adopt in my own personal life as well as in a nursing role. Everyone has struggles, and I think a lot of the time we don’t really know what people are working through in life.

What has made your time at UBC the most memorable?
When I think back on my time at UBC, it has really been the people who have had the biggest impact on me. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by an incredibly supportive group of family, friends, classmates, instructors and faculty. Through the early (early!) mornings, countless study hours and overnight shifts, I have had amazing support, which I am so grateful for.

Do you want to share any stories about your time at UBC?
On our very first day starting the BSN program, our cohort was gathered for an orientation presentation. During this time, we were told a metaphor that reflected upon our program and nursing as a profession. The metaphor was to “be a dolphin”. When a member of a dolphin pod is struggling, the other members support it to the surface and continue to do this until it has healed. This metaphor made a profound impact on my cohort, who truly embodied the collaborative and caring qualities that the statement evokes. To this day, we still ask our fellow “dolphins” for help when one of us needs assistance.

What has been your most memorable extra-curricular/volunteer experience during your studies here?
Although this fast-tracked program necessitates that students spend a lot of time studying, some of my most memorable moments have been when we have gathered as a group to unwind and de-stress in our downtime. Whether it was getting together for a pot-luck, enjoying a day of hiking, or cheering people on at football games and talent shows, I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing group of people to go through this journey with. It is so comforting to know that no matter what kind of a day you had, there are people who truly understand.

How do you feel a degree in Nursing has benefited you compared to a different field of study?
Nursing as a field is undeniably unique. The role that you play on a day-to-day basis may vary drastically, depending on the situation. Nurses are critical-thinkers, role models, advocates, and problem-solvers. We work with individuals, families, communities and populations on municipal, provincial, national and international levels. Moreover, we work with people across the lifespan – from conception to after-death care – thus, we are able to impact virtually everyone. Because of this breadth of practice, I feel that nursing has given me the freedom to truly choose my own path and work where my passions are.

What advice would you give to a student considering Nursing?
For me personally, nursing school has been an amazing journey and I would absolutely encourage anyone who is interested in it to learn more about it and pursue their passions. That being said, there are definitely tough days – days when you doubt yourself and wonder if you could have done better. But what makes it all worthwhile is that even after those tough days, you know that somehow, you have made a positive difference in peoples’ lives. We have been given the privilege as nurses to be able to be with people when they are at their most vulnerable. That for me is one of the most rewarding aspects of nursing, and something that I feel honoured to be able to experience.

Where do you find your inspiration?
I am inspired by the people that I get to work with every day. I spent my final rotation in school in a pediatric intensive care unit and it was incredible to see how much strength and resilience is embodied in such young children and their families. There are kids there who have struggled with health challenges since they were born and yet they’re playful and high-spirited. I find that incredibly inspiring.

How do you work to make a difference in our world?
Nursing as a profession has come a long way – both historically, and in the not-so-distant past. Through a tradition of excellent clinical care, compassion and advocacy for both patients and the profession, nurses have become a trusted ally to patients, families and communities. However, work remains to be done. There are many challenges that lay ahead for myself and graduating cohort – some of which are becoming clearer every day, and some we have yet to discover. Examples include providing high-quality, cost-effective care for complex illnesses, giving whole diverse populations equal access to care, and giving care across the lifespan – from conception to death and dying. My hope is that I will be able to make a difference by contributing to the solutions to some of these larger issues.