Best laid plans

June 16, 2017

Nursing grad finds her future in an unexpected place


The past five years of Jennifer Mitchell’s life have been many things, but predictable is not one of them. Now, on the brink of graduating with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, she has learned to embrace the unpredictable and take opportunities as they come.

“I have horrible foresight for my own life. Had you asked me in junior high or high school if there was one thing I didn’t want to be, I probably would have said a nurse,” she says with a laugh. “My mom was a financial manager so I thought I’d follow in her footsteps and have a desk job and wear a suit to work every day. I really liked science and math, so I went into science for my first year in university.”

Jennifer soon discovered that science wasn’t a good fit, and began to open herself up to options she hadn’t considered before. “Growing up I had always loved school, but during that first year of university, I hated it for the first time,” she says. “But my mom said, ‘You’re not going to drop it unless you have a plan.’ And for some reason, some way, I decided that nursing would be that plan. I honestly don’t know what made me choose nursing—I really don’t. But it was the best decision of my life so far.”

At first, Jennifer still wasn’t entirely certain about the program or her future in the profession. But then a family tragedy put things into focus in an unexpected way.

“My mom was diagnosed with leukemia, and passed away during my first year,” she says. “Until then, I had no idea the full extent of what nurses did. When I applied to the program, I thought as a nurse I’d be doing basic things like giving injections. But when my mom was sick I got to see the family-centred care that nurses provide and the science behind it. That was a huge shift for me.”

Seeing the personal touches her mother’s nurses added, and the difference it made to her care, made Jennifer reimagine what she could put into—and get out of—her own practice in the future. “With leukemia, your blood levels and counts are always off. My mom was an accountant by trade, so the nurses would come to her every morning and hand her the charts with her blood counts,” she recalls. “She was a numbers person, so she loved that. Some patients wouldn’t care what their hemoglobin is, but she just lived for those numbers. Those meaningful little acts made a huge difference.”

One exchange in particular stood out to Jennifer, affirming her decision to abandon her old desk job dreams. “The day my mom passed away, I was leaving the hospital and one of her nurses came up to me, gave me a hug and said, ‘You can do this.’

“I don’t know what she was necessarily referring to, but it was such a comforting feeling. Knowing that I could someday be the person to give that level of compassion and caring to someone else brings me such joy.”

“ I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but that means it could be something awesome.” 
Jennifer Mitchell

Since then, Jennifer has regularly been surprised by where her practice has taken her. “A year ago if you had told me that I was going to work in the emergency room in Stony Plain and love it, I would have said, ‘That’s so random. That’s not going to happen.’ But I did my preceptorship out there. And I loved it.”

Reflecting on the past few whirlwind years, the biggest takeaway for Jennifer has been to embrace the unexpected. “I used to be a planner,” she says. “Before university, I had every single day of the next five years of my life planned. I was going to graduate, get married, have kids—everything was planned out. Now I have goals and dreams, but I think the universe has laughed at me enough times that I’ve stopped filling in all the details. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but that means it could be something awesome.”

As for right now, she has her sights set on a few events just around the corner. “I write my NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) on June 20 then I have convocation the next day. I’m also hoping to do some traveling.”

Just where will she be traveling to? “That’s a great question,” says Jennifer. “I haven’t planned that far ahead.”

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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