Some people know exactly what they want to be when they grow up – and nursing is a calling that few people tend to ignore.  

When I received that call, I was hesitant to answer. It was mid-2020 and Alberta was in isolation. Horror stories of front-line workers saturated the news but, occasionally, you would see a headline about a nurse changing a patient’s life. I have always longed to make connections and care for others and if that wouldn’t make me a good nurse, what would? I eventually picked up the phone.  

Fast forward to 2023. A lot has changed. and as I approach graduation, I wonder what lies ahead for me….

The opportunities are endless

“You can get a job wherever!” is the first thing people say when I tell them what I’m up to. Before joining the program,
I thought nursing was exclusively patient facing. In reality, nurses are the driving force of any health care facility, working in research, innovation, EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion), public health, and more. The education experience in a
highly-coveted program like ours is something I hold in high esteem as well. Every drop of blood, sweat and tears we shed into our work was matched with an aha! moment, a laugh from a favourite patient, or an empathetic pep talk from a mentor. I have found life-long friends through nursing, ones who share the same calling to take care of others. 

However, I’m terrified 

Despite being a women-dominated profession, nurses continue to be hyper-sexualized by stereotypes, leading to feelings of inadequacy, verbal and physical abuse, and resentment toward one another. And, despite 92% of nurses being women, men in nursing are more likely to climb to positions of leadership. That’s not coincidental. Sexism has an insidious presence on every unit. Racism is also prevalent in our field. White nurses have an overwhelming presence in Canadian health care. On top of that, although healthcare spending in Canada is higher than it has ever been before, one in four Albertans don’t have a primary care provider. Client and patient-facing health professionals are burnt out.

I have always been interested in addressing inequity, but I’ll admit I was not aware of the above statistics until I learned about it at school. At the U of A, we’re taught to not accept the status quo if it is a deterrent to patient care and to question when standards, policies, and practices aren’t working. Even in the two-year, accelerated nursing program, half of our coursework is focused on leadership, advocacy, and addressing determinants of health.

The future of nursing

Some may argue that focusing on stereotypically “fluffy” course material is unproductive while nurses are in short supply, and that we need more clinical hours to get out into the workforce faster. I completely disagree. A nurse without a leadership skillset, who lacks self-awareness, or who dismisses health inequities is a liability. Our health system may be at war, but nurses are taught not to march to the front lines to blindly follow orders; we are taught to show up and advocate for the public.

When I clock out from my final shift of my practicum this summer, who knows what will be going through my head. Nerves? Excitement? Relief? The desire for a nap? One thing I know for certain is that I’ll be ready. My education has equipped me with a foundation for building my leadership skills, a critical mindset, and the ability to look at health care through an intersectional lens. As a privileged, white, cisgender woman entering the field, I have been made aware of my moral obligation to deliver equitable care to the best of my ability. A new generation of nurses is marching to the frontlines – is Alberta ready for the disruption?

Author: Becca Moug

Becca is in her 2nd and final year of the After Degree Nursing program at the University of Alberta and is beyond excited for the opportunity to work with Health Cities as part of a leadership course. She is passionate about the promotion of health equity, identifying and tackling socioeconomic barriers in nursing care, and serving underprivileged groups. Her focus as a future nurse and leader is to empower individuals to view health care through an intersectional lens, and to advocate for their health and wellness