Lethbridge College's nursing program celebrated

A lot of memories shared at 50th Aniverary celebration.

The Nursing Program at Lethbridge College celebrated 50 years of existence with a special tea held in the Garden Court Restaurant Feb. 5.

“You are part of a living legacy of five decades,” Dr. Samantha Lenci, Provost and Vice President Academic at Lethbridge College told attendees. “It's an incredible celebration of  lifelong careers as nurses and as friends. 50 years ago, someone smarter than I started this program and said that we need some representation in Southern Alberta.”

The nursing program, Dr. Lenci said, was started 50 years ago was initiated because there was a need for nursing education in Southern Alberta. The feel was that there was enough support from the region and prospective students who were interested in pursuing it as a profession. 

In her speech, Dr. Lenci encouraged everyone to think back and remember those who were there back when the program started and also think of the people that carry on, as that legacy is ongoing. 

“No matter what the system throws at us, we will overcome it,” Dr. Lenci said. “We will make sure that students in our course are at the heart of everything we do. The patients and care and our community are already at the heart of everything we do.”

Shannon Seitz, a graduate of the Class of 1990 and Rural Instructor at Taber’s Lethbridge College Rural Campus, remembers initially coming into the college and being overwhelmed because her graduating class was much smaller. Seitz quickly learned however, that nursing students bond quickly because of the overall amount of work involved in taking the program.

“Nobody understands you as well as a fellow student,” Seitz said. “Our instructors also connected with us and took interest in who we were as people.”

Seitz said that although nursing is not an easy career, it was clearly what she was meant to do. Her inspiration to take the course came from a conversation with her mother and her mother brought out all these things from when Seitz was a little girl. 

“If anybody had ever been sick in our house, I had written down what time they needed their prescriptions, what time I needed to do stuff for them,” Seitz said. 

“I would take my dolls and they would have fractures, so then I would set their arms or I would wrap their head injuries. It was looking back at the stuff that I did that prompted me to give nursing a go. I only applied to one school of nursing and that was Lethbridge College.”

Seitz began at Lethbridge in the fall of 1988 immediately after graduating from grade 12 and after graduation, she transitioned over to the University of Lethbridge for her degree. 

After that, Seitz spent 15 years in bedside care before transitioning to the role of clinical educator. After spending five years in the clinical educator role, Seitz transferred into academic teaching on a full-time basis.

”I ultimately transitioned from beside to clinical instructor because I saw some of the new students coming out and at that point, education in nursing was, it was transitioning to a different approach for teaching,” Seitz said. “It wasn't necessarily an approach that I thought was best and I have always been taught that if you want him to affect change, you can't just talk about it. You've got to get your feet moving and you've got to go and you've got to do the work.”

Seitz determined she would either simply keep talking about the change or commit to doing something about what she was feeling. That urge to bring change prompted her to change her position to a role that would help her accomplish her goal of providing staff with what they needed to do their jobs successfully. 

Deb Bardock, the dean for the Centre of Health and Wellness, spoke about how the successes in the nursing program are present are due to the commitment, dedication, and constant pursuit of excellence by faculty of both past and present, staff, and the program’s partners. The students’ successes, Bardock said, is so tremendous because of the external partners, the health and wellness facilities that provide work integrated learning opportunities for the students.

Joanne Penner-Herron, a retired nurse and former Nursing instructor at Lethbridge College, stated that as everyone celebrates, it provides opportunity for reflection on how nursing education and its success is viewed in Lethbridge. 

“This anniversary celebration is more than a 50th party; this celebration causes everyone to reflect particularly on the change that this program represented upon its inception and still represents today in its broader scope,” Penner-Herron said. “Moving from the basic hospital-based, three-year nursing school programs in Lethbridge to the the Lethbridge Community College two-year nursing program in 1969 and 1970 was huge.”

Penner-Herron also spoke about how it was an even bigger deal to see the emergence of the baccalaureate degree nursing program in collaboration with the University of Lethbridge many years later. Through this evolution of educational change, Penner said, nursing students have always been integral in all that is done to develop nursing education. 

“We can have an excellent cutting edge curriculum and we can have inspired educators, but without eager students that spur us on, we have nothing,” Penner-Herron explained.

Penner-Herron went on to suggest that nursing education and its success here in Lethbridge from three perspectives: positively, from a historical perspective with evidence of success, and positively from a corporate perspective. 

As graduates from the last 50 years are recognized, Penner-Herron said there is clear evidence in the success of the nursing program because graduates have and continue to promote positive changes in health care wherever they are globally or locally. Penner-Herron said the program itself has continued to evolve with excellent nurse educators, ongoing cirriculum development, and hundreds of students eager to enroll on a yearly basis.

”Congratulations to the many, many people, many years who have contributed to the excellence of nursing education here in Southern Alberta for 50 years,” Penner-Herron said. “Its seeds were a vision in 1970 and those seeds continue to spur us on. Let us celebrate where we've come from and embrace the future.”

Carl Abellana, first year student in the Bachelor of Nursing After Degree Program and member of the event’s organizing committee, spoke about how millennials like himself are stereotyped to be to be narcissistic, entitled, lazy, unfocused, addicted to their telephones and obsessed with Instagram filters.

Abellana also said that however stereotypes do not provide a full narrative of a person, let alone a whole generation of millions.

“In a study that was conducted, it was found that millennials find more meaning in the health professions,” Abellana said. “They are looking more of a purpose and without a doubt, Nursing provides a purpose. For some, nursing is more than just a career; it's a calling.”

Abellana also emphasized research shows that millennials are generally drawn to meaningful work. Millennials, want to not only do their job, but they want what they're doing to the meaningful and conjugated to the greater good of those that they are working with their professions and the world and account. 

“There are almost a hundred million millennials in North America,” Abellana said. “They are believed to be the most educated generation and the most diverse generation that this nation's ever seen. That makes them extremely cool, truly aware, and gender sensitive, all of which is crucial in becoming a compassionate nurse.”

Abellana said he has also learned compassion during his first semester practicum at a long-term care facility where elderly people reside, as the residents there don’t receive a lot of family visits and need the compassion from those who work there. This semester, Abellana is in rural, acute settings and is learning how to apply both theories and compassion to people of various backgrounds.

“I think as I move forward, I’d like to really get the idea of being compassionate and the idea of  providing care without being judgmental to people,” Abellana said. “In the future, I also want to maybe become a good educator for people to promote good health and to practice good health.”

Abellana ultimately decided to go into Nursing because he has a passion for helping others and a drive to be an inspiration to everyone. 

Originally from the Philippines, Abellana moved to Southern Alberta in 2002 after his mom got her status and petitioned for the entire family to immigrate to Canada. Having lived in a smaller city back home, Abellana is amazed about about what Lethbridge has in terms of the healthcare system, technology, and medical services because the services are more advanced than they are in the Philippines.

Abellana admits that after he graduates his program in 2021, he wants to practice Nursing in Canada for few years with an emphasis on global health so he can help provide care to less fortunate countries.

Natalie Dufresne, who was in attendance at the celebration, admitted she is is of a similar mindset to Abellana in that she wants to provide a compassionate face as a nurse even when times are stressful. 

Dufresne graduated the NESA program in 2015 and briefly worked in Edmonton before returning to the rural setting of Milk River to work. 

Dufresne was also one of five nursing program alumni featured on posterboards at the 50th Anniversary Tea to show how nursing and nursing students have evolved through the years.

”My career so far is an ongoing reflective process of learning how to take care of myself and learning what I want to do,” Dufresne said. ”It’s also about making sure my education is continually up to date and being as prepared as you can for anything that comes through the door.”

Dufresne emphasizes she wants to do what is best for the patient no matter the circumstance.

“I hope that I can show some resiliency and adaptability to those that come after me that I can show them some resiliency and adaptability,” Dufresne said. “I also hope that I can just provide a compassionate face in a very stressful time and to be an advocate for those that can't advocate for themselves because of their condition.”

Benjamin Northcott, the Interim Chair for the Bachelor of Nursing at Lethbridge College, strongly feels that his role as an educator provides him an opportunity to have an impact on the future of nursing, to help mold people's concept of what it means to be a nurse, and what it means to practise nursing. 

“I went through nursing school and during that time, I was always tutoring my peers and helping educate them as their peer,” Northcott said. “I found that enjoyable enough that once I got out working in the field, I thought I would like to try teaching students.”

Northcott went to Medicine Hat College for nursing at the age of 27 and eventually ended up working at Lethbridge College after years of working both the clinical and instructional sides in Regina for several years. 

“Currently, I'm in a role where I get to go and visit various practicum sites,” Northcott said. “Whenever I’m doing that, I run into alumni who have graduated and who are now working on those units. It's always very gratifying and rewarding to see them.”

The alumni, Northcott said, remember how they were taught they talk about how interesting their career is and how they're excited and passionate about what they're doing and where they are. 

Northcott says that seeing that excitement is kind of an anecdotal way for him to feel like he’s had an impact on their lives and contributed in some small way to how their lives are going to go.

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