A group of nursing students from the University of the Fraser Valley welcomed counterparts from across the province in Abbotsford from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3. The event was the Canadian Nursing Students' Association (CNSA) Western Prairie Regional Conference, and the theme was: "Nursing the Spectrum: Diversity and Inclusivity within the Realms of Health."
Several nursing leaders were present for the annual event, including BCNU Council student liaison and North West region chair Teri Forster and Okanagan Similkameen region chair Rhonda Croft.
"BCNU is a leader when it comes to advancing the nursing profession," said Forster, who had been invited to make a presentation on what ally ship means for nurses. Forster says she was honoured to lead a breakout session and share her own experiences as a worker with a disability and talk about the importance of allies in helping maintain a nurse's ability to be contributing member of the health-care team. "Nurses experience challenges with discrimination, bullying and systemic isolation as a result of who they are," said Forster, "and allies can break down these challenges and support each other."
Foster also spoke with over 125 students at the BCNU exhibitor booth. "Students had great questions around the benefits of choosing work in BC, and before entering the nursing field they wanted to know what BCNU is doing to support its members and create lasting change," she reported.
"I'm very proud of BCNU and the efforts we make in helping students make the transition from student nurse to practising nurse," she said. "Being at CNSA events is an incredibly important investment and a first step in ensuring that students understand unionism and their power to advocate."
Croft was invited to conduct a breakout session on civility. She told conference participants that civility is about being conscious of our behaviour and words when we interact with another person. "Nurses are constantly in relations – with colleagues, patients, and families," she noted. "Civility can be hard work. It requires paying attention, but we know it increases psychological health and safety in the workplace."
Croft acknowledged that nurses are exposed to people who are in pain, scared and generally at their worst. She said that being a kind person when patients and their families are frightened and unsure can significantly change a stressful situation. "Kindness is vital," she argues. "Be kind to yourself, ensure that you are bringing your best civil self to work and then spread that kindness to others."
The CNSA is the national voice of Canadian nursing students. Its goal is to increase the legal, ethical, professional and educational aspects of the nursing profession, and to promote the profession as a whole.
The CNSA 2020 National Conference takes place from Jan. 21 to 25 in Montreal.
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Every year BCNU sponsors student members from each of the union's 16 regions to attend Canadian Nursing Students' Association (CSNA) conferences. Several BCNU student delegates told us why they applied through BCNU to attend this fall's CNSA Western Prairie Regional Conference, and shared highlights from their conference experience.
KIMBERLY MEERSE University of the Fraser Valley
BCNU student sponsorship has been a vital part of my nursing student career. It has afforded me connections with members and fellow students from across the province. I'm truly thankful to the members for allocating their time and funds to empower a new generation of nurses.
The opportunity to attend the CNSA conference was invaluable as it fostered the idea that everyone can be an advocate for changing the health-care climate to encapsulate the unique and diverse needs of every individual. The conference emboldened me to be a change-maker for my fellow students, nurses and for the people we serve, by taking steps to advocate for equality and dignity.
MELISSA WAKEMAN University of Northern BC
I had always been hesitant to enter into the medical profession due to a political system that's leaving nurses and their patients feeling taken advantage of, powerless and stigmatized. These ethical and moral dilemmas directly correlate to the high burnout rate of our nursing professionals.
As student nurses, we learn about competent cultural care surrounding the biopsychosocial-spiritual model but are often left short [when it comes to applying this model]. I heard from several conference speakers who highlighted the importance of healing beyond our current skin-deep standard. We listened to stories of ignorant care, traumatic historical events, and lack of consideration for the preferences of self titles.
The conference left me with a new perspective, requiring me to acknowledge my use of language, how I express my thoughts, and explore where my core beliefs come from and whether they are appropriate in my role as a caregiver. I felt empowered and learned about available resources to health-care professionals that will ultimately enable us to advocate and care for our patients, our friends, and the families within our communities.
KATARINA LEWIS University of Northern BC
Becoming a student member of BCNU has changed my life. I have learned to reach out for support and understand how BCNU will influence my future practice as a registered nurse. As a BCNU student member you are able to connect with many amazing individuals such as nurses, other students, and other health-care professionals.
Through my experiences with BCNU I have been able to build a network and support system with colleagues from across the province. I became a student member because I wanted to expand my knowledge of my union at an early stage in my career. BCNU has provided opportunities and learning experiences that will forever impact my practice as a future nurse.
I had an amazing experience at the CNSA conference. There were many speakers who covered important topics related to nursing, such as transphobia, fatphobia and healthism, autism, street nursing, and patient experiences. My overall experience can be summarized with these two quotes: "It's easy to teach someone to be a caregiver, it's hard to teach someone to care." And: "Life isn't where you're from, life is where you're going."
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