The (unusual) Journey of a 3rd Year Nursing Student

"We come across so many people in our lives and often get caught up in the "next big thing" that we don’t take much time to look back at our accomplishments or reflect on the choices we've made."

As I await my final grades of the semester, I am finally sitting down to write about one of the most transformative years in both my education and my life. Having officially written my final exam of my undergrad about a week ago, the feeling is bittersweet but hasn’t fully sunken in yet. So much has changed over the past few years but this year specifically was an astronomic learning curve.

Nursing students are often the people that everyone rolls their eyes at when they mention their program -and rightfully so (we frankly cannot shut up about our program because we are proud of our future profession and we also think complaining about nursing is a personality trait). Through complex theories and challenging physiological process that we learn in order to help save lives, there is a lot of pressure on us to get the content and get it well because, at the end of the day, a single decision can be a matter of life or death for a patient. Many people come and go through the program and as we get ready for our final year of consolidation (consisting of 600 hours of placement), I have learnt so many things in my courses that I can apply in my everyday life.

But alas, as hard as nursing is, it’s not what spurred the most challenging year of my life.

As some may or may not know (depending on if you’ve spoken to me for at least .2 seconds), I had the great opportunity of being a Returning Residence Life Don with Housing Services at Trent University this year. This commitment has taken a huge place in my heart that I wouldn’t change for the world. Being able to see growth in young adults as they enter university, make mistakes, and gradually find themselves as the year goes by, is a blessing. Being in a leadership role like this is challenging at times when you have a paper due that night, and students’ can’t seem to chill long enough that the Don on Duty phone isn’t blowing up with calls (I say this lovingly). Donning has it’s ups and downs, but the relationships that you build with fellow student staff within the Housing department lasts a lifetime. I have found some of my closest friends through this role and expanded personal learning about life itself. As gruelling as the 2 weeks of training feels at the beginning while everyone gets to enjoy the last few weeks of summer, we get to gear up for a school year with surprises at every twist and turn of the way. We get to work with amazing professional staff that support us wholeheartedly both professionally and emotionally, concoct kooky shenanigans to keep us awake during long training days, live demoing the legendary double dream hands and much more. We gain an additional family away from home who help shape us into adults who go on the tackle the world.

Now to add the icing to the cake, on top of nursing and donning, I had the pleasure of participating in a variety of additional leadership roles during the year. This year, I worked as the youngest Editor-in-Chief at Trent Annual. Only in my 3rd year, I oversaw the beautiful production of the Trent Annual yearbook (which I am excited for y’all to see eventually). With a tight-knit team of extremely passionate and heart working designers and photographers, we put our blood, sweat, finger cramping, and tears into curating a book that will serve as a stamp in time to commemorate the 2019-2020 school year. This role was a complete shift from my previous one as Director of Design which I held for the past 2 years and boy did I get to experience e v e r y t h i n g (maybe one day in the near future I'll spill the then-outdated tea). Despite the challenges unique to this year, it was a refreshing change of pace that uncovered my passion for creative managerial capacities; which I hope to pursue at some point in my career.

As a kid in high school who went half & half on the sciences and the arts, university surprisingly was no different. With donning being my greatest leadership role, I volunteered as a student mentor in our IMPACT leadership program which helps foster leadership skills and self-awareness through the facilitation of workshops, activities, and coordination planning of retreats. Within the nursing department, I served as a Nursing buddy for 3 first-year nursing students to help provide support while they navigated their first year of the program. I also held a position as a student representative on the Appeals Committee to be a voice for students alongside fellow nursing faculty, which was eye-opening to the importance of policies, decision making, and advocacy. My arts crossover existed within working for Trent Annual and being the Executive Director of Photography for Trent’s art club, Trent Visual Arts Network (TVAN). I had the joy of attending events ran by other executives to learn new art skills in various mediums and running introductory photoshop/makeup sessions myself. Outside of design, photography and makeup artistry are skills that I enjoy sharing with others so they can learn a new skill to nurture into whatever they make of it. This club allowed me to do that while unearthing a newfound passion for educating others in the technical arts that many don’t realize are so important to our everyday lives.

In my own personal life, I finally cracked down and started investing in my career as a freelance photographer and graphic designer. Doing work in the arts without traditional post-secondary training has its challenges, but I have always been a believer in letting my work speak for itself. I may not have gone to school for graphic design (yet), but I can crank out some pretty cool things once I put my mind to it. Art will always be a part of my life and hopefully, I can continue to build my presence in the industry over time as I refine my skills. Photography and design have always come naturally to me and I’m sure I’ll eventually figure out a way to integrate it into my nursing practice. Thankfully, this quarantine time has been a blessing in disguise as I work on creating my professional website (from scratch; I know, I clearly hate myself and have too much of a tendency to do ~THE~ most) to put forth a true representation of my skills. I’m excited to (hopefully) share what I create by the end of this summer and inspire others to stop stalling and invest in themselves; however that may be.

For those still reading this 6-page non-double spaced essay (don’t dock me for my lack of APA citations), I know you’re probably thinking what haven’t I done at this point and honestly, I ask myself the same question. But, I can promise you I’ll always be looking for the next thing to teach myself to add to my basket of mismatched skills that I’ve somehow managed to acquire. Being an ambitious individual who wants to dabble in everything and get the best of both worlds, this year forced me to think critically about how I manage my time, the power of internal drive, and knowing when I’ve reached my limit in what I can handle. Each experience and challenge along the way has shaped me into the hardworking individual I am today and has strengthened my appreciation for the work that people do and the stories behind their actions. We come across so many people in our lives and often get caught up in the "next big thing" that we don’t take much time to look back at our accomplishments or reflect on the choices we've made. I am beyond grateful for every opportunity I’ve had, the friendships I’ve made, the connections I’ve built, and even the sass I’ve had to occasionally hand out when things started getting a bit out of hand. Words can’t illustrate how monumental this year has been to my growth as a person but I know I’ll always look back and never regret a single moment.

PS. Thanks for taking the time to read my babbling about my journey this year :)

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