Meet the Class of 2017: Faculty of Nursing

June 13, 2017

Nursing graduates perfect the science of caring

Each of this year’s Faculty of Nursing graduates made their way to the health-care field for different reasons: some were fascinated by the human body, some liked the challenge of deciphering the cause of an illness, and others were moved to share their sense of compassion and caring. But they all had one thing in common: a desire to make a difference.

Sanam Amiri

Bachelor of Psychiatric Nursing

If you had asked me a year before starting the Bachelor of Psychiatric Nursing program if I was willing to go to Africa by myself for a month, it would have been an absolute no—there were too many variables and uncertainties. But taking the program on the Ponoka campus encouraged me to take that risk.

I’m from Edmonton, so going to a small town like Ponoka was a big change and there was definitely some culture shock. But it ended up being really positive because I was immersed right in the program—we actually did our classes right in the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury. That inspired me to try new things and immerse myself in my profession as much as I could.

So I went to Tanzania the summer after my first year to work in a hospital psychiatric unit for a month. There, it’s such a taboo thing to be mentally ill because some people believe it’s the result of a curse. It was terrible—the unit had bars like a jail cell. It was really sad to see. But the people there didn’t know any different. They thought that isolation was the best way to treat mental illness.

I did my best to educate the patients that their illnesses are not curses—that they’re biochemical or genetic. My goal was to show them compassion and let them know that they’re not alone. What they’re going through is actually normal.

My biggest takeaway was how important it is for us to branch out and become culturally competent practitioners, especially since Canada is such a diverse country. I got so much out of that experience that I ended up volunteering in Peru the next summer.

Related: Read about Sanam's work in Tanzania

Jenna-Katheryn Heinemann

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

One of my mentors in the program, Dr. Colleen Maykut, inspired me to explore the issue of caring. I find sometimes we get lost in the scientific part of nursing and forget about the art side of it—the human, caring approach.

Having good mentors who really cared for me planted a seed for what I want my nursing practice to look like and how I want to make others feel. It’s very inspiring to try to achieve that same effect and to put work into getting there. It’s nice to have your clients feel cared for, empowered and comfortable and have that same experience that made me feel that way. It definitely has a ripple effect.

Throughout the program, the idea of authenticity was brought up a lot. Not just providing care, but authentically caring for your clients is essential. When my faculty members were genuinely caring toward me, I could tell and I felt more at ease. I’m sure my clients will be able to sense that from me as well, so I’ll always strive to be genuine.

Timmie Lundago

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

I was diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition during my second year. I had always been an A student and all of a sudden I was struggling. I couldn’t see things. My grades were falling from As to Bs. People kept saying that was still good enough, but for me it wasn’t. I wanted to be the best I could be, not only for myself but for the patients I would have in the future. That diagnosis played a lot of mind games with me, and it made me question if nursing was something I could pursue.

That’s where the bonds I made with my classmates became important. They helped me through, along with my family, my fiancé and professors. I worked with a really awesome team of doctors and Services to Students with Disabilities to make sure I had the tools I needed to succeed while I got my vision under control. It was hard, but here I am, graduating with a 4.0.

I’ve gone through a couple of surgeries now to stabilize my vision. I also wear special contact lenses—essentially my cornea is deteriorating, and the lenses replace the curvature of my eye. So right now my vision is fine, but eventually I’ll have to get a cornea transplant.

In the end this experience is going to make me a better and stronger nurse. I’ll have patients whose lives are going along and all of a sudden they’re thrown a curveball and don’t know what to do. I might not know the specifics of what they’re feeling, but I can use my own experience to empathize and assure them that day by day, one step at a time, things will get better.

Joti Nijjar

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Learning the difference between equality and equity in my first year really changed my outlook and taught me to be more empathetic and equitable in my practice as a nurse, and in my personal life as well. I had a professor explain it this way: imagine that a child is at a baseball game with his family, and there is a fence around the field. The family members are all different ages and different heights, so some are tall enough to see over the fence and watch the game, and some of them, like the child, are too short and are unable to see anything. That’s equality—everyone gets the same treatment, no matter their needs or circumstances. Now imagine someone lifting that child up. With that extra boost and that extra help, he can see what everybody else gets to see. That’s equity. It’s all about recognizing the circumstances that each individual is in so that you can give them what they need to succeed.

Being a nurse is about more than just looking at the illness and disease. It is just as important to see the social aspect of individuals and consider the whole person – where they are coming from, their education, history, and the support systems they have. There are going to be situations where individuals need a little extra guidance and empowerment, and then they can manage their own health with confidence. Different individuals have different needs and I’ve learned to adapt to the needs of those I work with to help them take charge in their own health.

Madison Porisky

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

I played Griffins volleyball for four years so I’m used to working in teams. That was a huge thing I could transfer into nursing because nursing is all about teamwork. If you have a question, if you’re ever uncertain, or if you’ve never done a procedure before, you can always ask someone for help. You’re all part of a team, so that’s pretty cool. That’s what I love about it.

It was pretty easy to separate my athlete side from my nursing side. When I’m in the heat of the game, I’m in the game. All I think about is the next play. But if someone got injured, I’d turn on my nursing brain for a minute. If they went down with an ankle sprain or weren’t feeling well, I’d immediately be thinking, “What is the root cause of this, how do we fix it and where do we go from here?” Your nursing brain turns on and you just kind of zone in.

But once the injured person went off the court and they were in someone else’s hands, I could easily get right back into the game because that was the priority in the moment. Managing priorities is really important in nursing, so it’s a good skill to have.

Shelbi Roy

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

My mom’s a nurse, so it’s something I’ve always been around. She worked at a long-term care home across from my elementary school when I was a kid, so I spent a lot of time there. I didn’t have a babysitter, so I would just walk there after school and hang out with the residents. I loved spending time with them. It was like having 80 grandpas.

Right now I’m working in pediatric nursing. I’ve always really loved kids; they’re probably my favourite kind of human, but I didn’t know if I’d like working in pediatrics. If you really like kids, seeing them when they’re very sick is a very different experience. But in my third year, I got to go to the Stollery for my acute care placement and I just fell in love with it. It didn’t even feel like work.

When people find out I work in pediatrics, they always ask how I do it because it can be so sad. But kids are so resilient and tough. They’ll get major heart surgery and right after they’re asking when they can run around and play. They could teach adults a thing or two.

MacEwan University is proud to celebrate the Class of 2017. Congratulations to this year's graduates, medal recipients and distinguished award honourees.

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