Nursing Week Profile: Alumni Bahar Karimi

11 May 2017

Bahar Karimi

Director of Resident Services, St. Peter’s Residence at Chedoke – Thrive Group

Hometown: Tehran, Iran

Current town/city: Hamilton, Ontario

Year of graduation: 2016

Interests, activities, clubs and professional organizations:

I am very passionate about leadership, teaching, politics and the profession of nursing. I feel strongly that my calling as a nurse is to empower vulnerable and marginalized populations, and I have been involved with multiple teams and professional and community organizations as a way to give back to society.  As a strong nursing advocate, I am a member of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) and Chair of the Hamilton Chapter Executive Team. I also am a member of the Canadian College of Health Leaders (CCHL), Canadian Nurses Association (CNA), Nursing Leadership Network of Ontario (NLN), and Ontario Association of Non-profit Homes and Services for Seniors (OANHSS).

To support the future of nursing profession, I also teach at Seneca College in the Part-time Practical Nursing Program.

What was the most valuable lesson — inside or outside the classroom — you learned as a student the University of Toronto?

Anything is possible if you put your mind into it. I began my career as a Personal Support Worker in 2004 and pursued my education to become a Registered Practical Nurse at Mohawk College and graduated in 2006. In pursuit of increased nursing knowledge, I completed my BScN program at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Through this program, I discovered my talents for leadership and became passionate about health systems and politics. I was accepted to the combined Master of Nursing and Master of Health Sciences in Health Administration program at the University of Toronto, and this proved to be one the most exciting events of my professional and academic life.

Due to personal and financial pressures, I continued working full-time hours while going through the program at U of T.  At the same time, I was pregnant and caring for my 2 year old son. My husband put his own career on hold and became a stay at home dad so I could focus on my education and professional development. My classmates supported me in ways that allowed me to make the most out of my educational experience. Friends, professors, mentors, university staff, colleagues and leaders at work all provided me with invaluable support. I was truly fortunate to be recognized for awards and scholarships, including academic, community and workplace awards that provided me with many professional opportunities; all of which were instrumental in my growth in the world of nursing. I quickly learned through all those experiences that building relationships, knowing when to ask for help and believing in yourself is the key to success. So that’s exactly what I did, and it paid off.

Greatest professional accomplishment:

My greatest professional accomplishment to date is leading my current organization towards obtaining an inaugural designation as RNAO’s Long-Term Care Best Practice Spotlight Organization. Through a three year candidacy process we were successful in shifting the culture of our organization towards evidence-based practice and implemented multiple RNAO Best Practice Guidelines in the home. The impact of implementing these guidelines resulted in improved resident outcomes and has empowered our nurses. By engaging in decision making, providing support and resources to staff, they successfully implemented changes in their practice. It has been wonderful for me to see our staff feeling empowered and demonstrate ownership of their professional practice.

Favourite Bloomberg Nursing professor:

I had many wonderful nursing professors that I learned so much from and owe so much to, but if I have to pick one I would say Mike Villeneuve. Mike is an incredibly engaging teacher and an inspirational leader. He is an expert in the field, with strong values I admire.  Through him, I learned so much about nursing and politics, the health care system, and public policy. Getting to know Mike and his work has transformed me as a nurse, leader and person, and I am forever thankful for that.

What is your favourite thing about nursing?

As a nurse I have the power to influence people’s health and lives. Nurses are healers, experts, teachers, consultants, facilitators, counsellors, advocates, leaders and so much more. Nurses understand the impacts of social, economic and political determinants of health and can influence policies at every level to improve people’s lives. Nurses have the numbers, the knowledge, the voice and the drive to transform the health care system.

What advice do you have for current Bloomberg Nursing students?

I always encourage nurses and nursing students to believe in what we do and in the differences we make in the health care system and people’s lives; to always be proud of our profession while staying humble. It is a privilege to be a nurse and have opportunities to get close to others – nurses on the front-line all the way to administrative levels have an impact on the lives of many people. As the most trusted profession, nurses are in a unique position to influence policies and advocate for justice and for health. This generation of health care leaders is going to transform the health care system: one provider, one team, one organization, one LHIN, and one province at a time. I believe that it takes passion and action to achieve the “impossible”.