As U of T welcomes students back to campus this fall, first year nursing students at the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing are getting ready to begin their accelerated two-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program (BScN) at a time when the state of the nursing work force has never been more dire.
Jinal Patel had never really imagined she would become a nurse. Having studied biomedical science at Toronto Metropolitan University, Patel knew she wanted a career in the health sciences, but she was unsure of what that might look like. During her undergraduate education, she volunteered at the Hospital for Sick Children, where she says her interactions with patients and nurses soon set her on an entirely different path.
“That environment in the hospital and seeing how the nurses worked caring for their young patients made me want to apply to the nursing program at U of T right away,” says Patel, “so many of those nurses are graduates of this program, and I felt it was absolutely the right choice for me.”
Patel’s decision to pursue nursing also stemmed from another part of her life, her keen interest in serving others as inspired by her role model His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the fifth spiritual successor and guru of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, a denomination of the Hindu faith.
“Growing up my parents wanted me to experience my religion and culture, and when I went to the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Toronto, I grew inspired by the relief work that H.H. Pramukh Swami Maharaj had done and his selflessness and humility in those acts of service. That is something I want to bring to the forefront of my work as a nurse,” says Patel.
The BScN program at Bloomberg Nursing stood out to Patel for many reasons including the varied types of learning opportunities offered within the program, from working closely with top-tier research faculty to taking part in hands-on learning in the simulation lab, and of course highly sought after clinical placements.
While she is most excited about working with pediatric patients in acute care settings, Patel is open to the many possibilities available to her through the program and its placement partners. She is most looking forward to pursuing her studies amid the diversity of downtown Toronto and working, as well as networking, with people from all backgrounds.
When asked about her awareness of the state of the nursing workforce, Patel says it is nerve wracking to see the upheaval, but that she is also motivated to use her degree as a registered nurse to make a difference.
“I want to draw upon the values I have learned at the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir especially the value of humility to ensure patients are cared for with patience and stability,” says Patel. “I want to live out the motto of H.H. Pramukh Swami Maharaj which is ‘in the joy of others, lies our own.’”
Incoming BScN student Conor Chiasson is also eager make a difference in in the lives of patients as a nurse, particularly for people living on the outskirts of society, such as those who are HIV positive, unhoused, or who identify as queer or racialized youth.
His decision to pursue nursing stems from a series of life experiences including his decision to study in the bioethics program at the University of Toronto. It was here through mutual shared interest that he met his mentor Professor Elizabeth Peter an ethicist and scholar at the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing.
“Professor Peter really encouraged me to bridge my interest in ethics and women and gender studies with nursing and community care,” says Chiasson. “I thought that as a humanities student, nursing was not for me, but she saw my initiative and work ethic, and said ‘I think you would be a great nurse.’”
Chiasson’s interest in ethics pairs well with his desire to make an impact and to be a leader in community health. He has witnessed first-hand the impact of the opioid crisis in Toronto and in rural Ontario. Harm reduction is something he has been drawn too for a long time and hopes to continue to provide harm reduction care throughout his career as a community health nurse.
“I want to ensure that any patient I give care to has informed consent, which is of particular importance in harm reduction,” says Chiasson. “I want them to understand what the treatment is, where it is going, and how it will affect their life goals. It is really about encouraging autonomy for these patients in addition to providing care.”
Looking forward to his community health placement Chiasson wants to assist in providing not only face to face healing as a nurse, but also finding ways to implement upstream solutions in health care including from a policy perspective. Upon graduation he already has his sights set on working at a safe injection site or community health outpatient clinic, while also considering travel to Nunavut and the Northern Territories to gain even more knowledge about how he can support care in these communities.
For both Chiasson and Patel, their excitement at starting the nursing program is palpable, and their enthusiasm to be leaders in the health system and move the future of nursing forward is inspiring.
“I want to be a nurse,” says Patel, “I’m ready to get started.”