Spring Reunion gathers alumni from across the years

12 June 2014


Each year, alumni from across the years return to U of T just before Spring Convocation to enjoy their reunion. All alumni are welcome, but this year recognized the classes of 6T4, and 8T9 celebrating 50 years and 25 years respectively since crossing the stage at Convocation Hall to receive their nursing degrees.

At Bloomberg Nursing, Spring Reunion began with a breakfast reception, with alumni from all years gathering to see their friends and colleagues again. Alumni from as early as 1942 returned to the Faculty, and mingled with others from classes graduated as recently as 2011. Everyone was in high spirits as they reconnected with each other, particularly members of the class of 5T9, who roomed together 55 years ago during their nursing education – one of the first classes to complete the then-new 4 year BScN program.

After breakfast, attendees were invited to the Distinguished Alumni Awards hosted by Linda McGillis Hall, Interim Dean. Each year, we recognize Rising Stars and Distinguished Alumni, and the honoured class year nominates one of their members for a Class Award.

Bloomberg Nursing alumni continue to do great work in providing excellent patient care, and contributing towards advancing quality patient care in every community they work. Spring Reunion is just one of the ways that Bloomberg Nursing and U of T can celebrate and recognize the achievements of our alumni, great and small.

Many in attendance were excited to visit the Nursing Simulation Lab on the ground floor. The tours, led by students who will become the class of 2015, introduced returning alumni to the state of the art simulation mannequins, hospital ward and community room now available to students to practice their clinical skills. Many nursing alumni remember a very different learning environment than the one used today, with some having worked on cadavers. And as many alumni pointed out, thankfully that isn’t the case any longer.

The reunion was a wonderful opportunity to hear from several alumni classes about what drew them to the profession, what they take from nursing, and what advice they might have for the graduates of today and the nursing alumni of tomorrow.

Ruth Haig

Ruth graduated in the class of 1954, and worked in public health before having children, then returned to home care nursing, now CCAC.

Why did you become a nurse? “It appealed to me to help people. The medical profession was interesting to me, and I decided that I wanted to be involved in some way. In the last year of high school, I decided on nursing. As I researched the university nursing programs I was attracted to the way the one at the University of Toronto was structured.”

What did you take away from being a nurse? “Listening to patients and clients, being compassionate, understanding, and sensitive to their needs.”

What’s your advice to current nurses? “Take time with your patients. There is such an emphasis now on recording that nurses must so much time writing things down that they haven’t time for the patient.”

Vicki Shienfield

After graduating as part of the class of 1974, Vicki worked in pediatrics, public health, built a family, and finally spent 26 years working in public health once more.

What brought you to nursing? “I think I was surrounded by people in an era where you become teachers or nurses. If I was going to be a nurse, I was going to become the best nurse I could be, there was no question that U of T was the place to do that.”

What have you taken away from being a nurse? “Nursing has made me a better, tolerant, more generous human being.”

What’s your advice to graduates today? “Listen more, and use your mentors wisely.”

Catherine Park

After graduating in 1974, Catherine hoped to work in labour and delivery, but found work in the dialysis unit of a hospital. She now works in a policy position with government.

What brought you to nursing? “When I was 6 years old, I was a patient at SickKids, and I had the most amazing nurse. Her name was Miss Darling, and that was it – I was going to be a nurse. I was determined to save the world. I read all the Cherry Ames books, and I was just so in love with all the shiny equipment, and I wanted to know how to use it – I didn’t realize I’d be cleaning all the shiny equipment. But I knew from the age of 6 that I was going to be a nurse.”

What is your take away from being a nurse? “Nursing gave me life skills, even as a very young graduate. You’re dealing with people with major illnesses or family problems, and it makes you more compassionate. For the rest of your life people will say “Oh, you’re a nurse!” and immediately show you that strange bump on their neck. You never stop being a nurse in your head, even if you don’t continue practicing in a front-line position.”

What would you say to graduates now? “Health care is really complex and messy and full of complaints. Keep your enthusiasm, keep your focus – you will make a difference.”

Paula Raggiunti

Paula graduated in 1989, and also completed her Master of Health Science degree at the University of Toronto in 1994.. She is now the director of infection prevention and control at a community hospital east of Toronto.

Why did you become a nurse? “My passion was always the health sciences – biology, chemistry, that kind of thing. I was speaking with a couple of girls I had met the summer before entering U of T and they had suggested nursing as a career path, so that’s what I did.”

What do you take away from nursing? “It is very rewarding, very satisfying, to really touch a person’s life, even if you no longer work directly with patients. You know that the changes and policies you are making and implementing will ultimately benefit that patient. Better outcomes in patient care, higher rates of patient satisfaction, reduced rates of infection and other risks – it’s very rewarding. There is nothing like a profession of nursing, and I wouldn’t trade that education in for anything else.”

What is your advice to our graduates today? “Stay true to your passion in nursing, and stay true to the best practices you learned. Health care is a challenging environment, and you may be confronted with taking shortcuts in delivering care, but be an advocate for your patients and for your profession. Get involved professionally, sit on committees at your workplace. There is so much that nurses can do; it’s just a case of seizing those opportunities. Get involved, be connected, and support your faculty of nursing.