More than 400 graduates from the Faculty of Nursing and School of Continuing Education will soon be taking their place in hospitals, clinics and other institutions across the province and beyond.

Whether they’re caring for newborn infants in a neonatal unit, providing support to hospice patients or supporting the physical and mental health of people of all ages in their communities, these grads are defined by their drive to help others.

Here, a few members of the Faculty of Nursing and School of Continuing Education’s Class of 2022 are sharing their stories about overcoming obstacles, coming from great distances and finding their passion in unexpected places.

Tanvir Boparai stands in front of a large pink balloon

Tanvir Boparai
Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Faculty of Nursing

The years spent at MacEwan will always hold a very special place in my heart. I moved from India to study here and I am very grateful for the warm welcome by MacEwan International – they guided me through each step of my education journey.

I always wanted to be a nurse. I have a strong passion to help people. Working in neuro ICU was my dream, and I’m proud to say I got my dream job in my dream specialization right after my graduation.

I was extremely inspired by my nursing professors. They always went the extra mile to make me feel confident in my nursing skills. I love the fact that they provided extra office hours and were always there to support students in every way possible.

I will definitely come back to MacEwan one day to enroll in a critical care program. I’m looking forward to it.

Larry Garcia sits outside on a sunny day, with palm trees behind him.

Larry Garcia
Psychiatric Nursing Diploma, Faculty of Nursing

After more than a decade in a teaching career in the Philippines and seven years in the Canadian oil and gas industry, returning to school as a mature student is a decision that did not come easy. Due to plummeting oil market and economic recession, I decided to take a big leap and make a career transition in the field of nursing for personal and professional growth and better employment in the future.

As I was scaffolding my skills, from building my self-confidence to building my competencies, I became more passionate about psychiatric nursing for various reasons – first, the need to raise social awareness; second, the need to change the way mental health problems are discussed or viewed; and third, the need to address the stigma associated with vulnerable populations experiencing addictions and mental health issues.

With the unprecedented challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, I will forever be grateful to my professors and clinical instructors for helping me succeed on this academic journey. From being a student and now a full-fledged registered psychiatric nurse, I drew my strengths and inspirations from my friends, family, and loved ones in the Philippines, most especially from my loving wife, Precy, who by heart and profession is also a licensed practical nurse.

Currently, I am working in an acute adult psych unit. Further down the road, I look forward to expanding my studies to a Bachelor of Psychiatric Nursing to further enhance my knowledge and skills in clinical practice, management, and leadership.

Karina Laitres sits at a desk inside her home, with a laptop and a coffee mug on the desk i front of her.

Karina Laitres
Bachelor of Psychiatric Nursing, Faculty of Nursing

Graduating from the Bachelor of Psychiatric Nursing is a much more defining moment in my life than I originally anticipated. About a year after I began the program, I suffered a mild traumatic brain injury. It changed my life within seconds. Although I was forced to take time away from my studies, I was determined to finish what I started. Slowly, one class at a time, and five years later, I did just that. I can’t say it’s been easy, but it has been extremely fulfilling and worth every challenging minute. Not being medically cleared to work, the courses allowed me to stay current and involved in what I love and am so passionate about, while also pushing my brain to heal and grow.

Psychiatric nursing isn’t one thing. It is a never-ending array of possibilities. There are an incredible number of opportunities available, and the field is only growing. The Psychiatric Nursing Diploma program, which I previously graduated from, brought me my love of psychiatric nursing. And this degree program brought me my passion for pushing boundaries and being a part of the growth. I learned more than I thought possible – each course dove deep into an area of practice, bringing together many different registered psychiatric nurses – all working in different areas – to share ideas and experiences and collaborate on projects that redefine the capacities of our profession.

I am so proud to say that with the support of my professors, I persevered through this program. I will never be the same as I was pre-injury, but in some ways I just might be better. I know there is nothing that I cannot do, so you can expect to see some big projects from me in the near future!

Dana McGonigal stands outside in a field wearing a large-brimmed hat and a big smile.

Dana McGonigal
Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Faculty of Nursing

I’ve been passionate about nursing for as long as I can remember. My mom and sister are both nurses and I grew up being inspired by their compassion and ability to help others – I was really drawn to that. I wanted a career path that had a lot of opportunity, diversity and the opportunity to help others and nursing ticked all the boxes for me.

During my maternity clinical rotation, I had a lot of firsts: holding and feeding a baby, assessing newborns, seeing labour for the first time – and it felt like a spark was lit in me. My instructor encouraged me and told me that she could tell that I had a natural passion for working with moms and their babies, and I knew she was right. I spent the remainder of my rotation learning as much as I could and I am thankful that she believed in me and helped me realize my passion for women’s and neonatal health.

I’m currently working as a registered nurse in the NICU and it has been the most fulfilling six months. I have found a passion that I never expected to have, and every day I go to work feeling grateful.

Agnya Patel stands outside wearing a long beige scarf, holding a bouquet of pink flowers.

Agnya Patel
Gerontology Certificate and Hospice Palliative Care Certificate, School of Continuing Education

As a nurse, I had studied a little about palliative and hospice care, which inspired me and made me curious to learn more. For me, palliative care is something that gives me satisfaction as I will be helping to improve someone’s quality of life at a point when it’s most precious.

I’m an international student and ever since I got admission into MacEwan, I was excited to be on campus. However, COVID-19 made it almost impossible for the first two semesters. It felt surreal when I finally attended my first in-person lecture at university after two semesters. It was more than what I expected, and the facilities and support services were excellent beyond my expectations.

I was very surprised when I got to know how culturally open MacEwan is to all international students. They held all kinds of festivals such as Holi (the festival of colours), Navratri and many others. It’s a good feeling when the university you’re studying at considers and celebrates all cultures.

Himani Sharma stands outside on a sunny day.

Himani Sharma
Gerontology Certificate and Hospice Palliative Care Certificate, School of Continuing Education
Dean’s Medal

I was born and raised in India and immigrated to Canada as a student in January 2021. While I was studying for my Bachelor of Science in Nursing from India, I developed a keen interest in working with the geriatric population and learning how to support patients suffering from life-limiting diseases, such as cancer. In the meantime, I also wanted to study in Canada, and fortunately, I found the Gerontology and Hospice Palliative Care program at MacEwan.

I loved the diverse atmosphere of MacEwan, which made my learning experience invaluable. I am grateful for the support I received from the kind and proficient nursing instructors. They fostered my knowledge by providing real-life scenarios, simulations and a wide range of resources. The group projects and teamwork also enhanced my perspective on collaborative learning.

In the future, I would like to implement a holistic approach and complementary and alternative therapies into my nursing practice to alleviate suffering and improve the quality of life of patients. I also look forward to practicing as a registered nurse in Canada after going through the licensure process.

Payden Unrau sits in front of a black leather chair inside a home.

Payden Unrau
Psychiatric Nursing Diploma, Faculty of Nursing
Dean’s Medal

The defining moment of my time at MacEwan was during my preceptorship – this was where all of my studies came together and everything I learned started to click. As I finished the last day of preceptorship, I had tears streaming down my face – not because I was upset, but because I was so sad to leave the unit. I loved it so much, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for my preceptors and my experience there.

I am passionate about being with and for people, and helping others not to feel alone. I was led to psychiatric nursing as I kept finding myself drawn to working with vulnerable populations and wanted more training to know how to help.

I am currently working on the unit where I did my preceptorship, and I love it! I get to work with teenagers and families, and it's the best.

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