I was born in Ontario, but grew up mostly in New York, along with stints in Nova Scotia and the Netherlands, before returning to Canada for my first degree, at the University of Guelph. In the end I graduated with a degree in agricultural science, but not before picking up a minor in mathematics as well. After working as a farm hand on vegetable and fruit farms in Ontario and the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, I decided to return to school, obtaining my MSc at the University of British Columbia. As I discuss below, it was during the fieldwork for this second degree that I decided to return once more to UBC — to obtain my nursing degree. I definitely think of Vancouver as my home now, and love the combination of city-life and ease of access to the outdoors that it affords, such as hiking on the North Shore and climbing up in Squamish.
Why did you choose nursing?
I was in Northern Zambia as part of my MSc in Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems (also completed at UBC), working on a nutrition intervention as part of my work in the drivers of infantile anaemia in the region. While it was very rewarding, we would sometimes encounter children who were very ill. We would always ensure they got to a clinic to receive the care they needed, and in reflecting on my experiences, I realized this was the most satisfying part of my time there. At the same time, it left me wishing that I had the knowledge and skills to more directly intervene in situations such as this. And so, even though I recognize how critically important health research is, I decided to become involved in patient care. Ultimately I chose nursing, based on discussions with friends who had been in hospitals over the course of their lives. Even years later they could often clearly remember the nursing care they received, and this was something which I found incredibly inspiring.
What has made your time at UBC most memorable?
The people that I have met. Despite being such a short program (only 20 months!) I have made friends in nursing school that I know will be lifelong. Nursing school can be tough, and a big part of what helped me succeed was my awesome classmates. We were always there for each other doing the good days and the bad, and it is so exciting to hear what everyone else is up to when we meet up, or when we run into each other in the hallways of the places we now work at.
How are you applying the skills you learned through your studies at UBC?
Some of the most important learning and training that I have received at the UBC School of Nursing was in the area of relational practice, and how to provide compassionate, competent and ethical care to people who may have had very different life experiences than me. This is especially important in my chosen specialty of mental health nursing, as it helps me better care for my clients as they navigate a complex health system and deal with the impacts of stigma, past traumas, and on-going violence and discrimination in our society.
What advice would you give a student considering a degree in nursing?
That they should totally do it! Seriously though, I can already tell that nursing is an incredibly rewarding career; however, it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay. Ask yourself why you are considering working in health care generally, and nursing specifically. While I am always happy to see new faces enter the profession, there are many other equally important ways that you can be involved: dietetics, occupational therapy, social work, physical therapy, counselling, or as a physician or psychiatrist to name just a few. But most of all I would invite you to talk to a nurse; there are so many of us, and I bet that you know a couple. Ask them what their job is like, and what the positives and negatives are. This can give you a better understanding of what your own career in nursing may look like.
Where do you find your inspiration?
There are several sources of inspiration for me. One is all of the amazing nurses who I have had the privilege of working with, both in school and now in practice. Seeing their dedication inspires me to continue to improve my practice. Another is my family; there have been many people in my family that have been part of the health care system, including as nurses, and it is inspiring to think that I am continuing that tradition. And of course, my parents, for instilling in me the desire to help others. Finally, my biggest source of inspiration is my clients. I feel like I learn so much from them, and I am constantly astounded by what they have to teach me about coping and resilience even in the face of very difficult circumstances. Seeing how hard they work inspires me to work even harder.
What are your plans for the future?
My immediate plans involve working “at the bedside” in the field of pediatric mental health. However, I also want to gain experience working in addictions. Longer term, I would like to practice overseas with an organization such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Eventually, I plan on returning to school to obtain a PhD in nursing, with the intention of becoming an instructor.
Photo and text provided by the Rising Stars Applied Science 2017 interviews