by Heidi Riley
“Ever since I was young, I wanted to work in a healthcare setting,” says Christie Hall, a fourth-year nursing student at UPEI.
Christie’s career goal was inspired when her sister started going to the IWK in Halifax at a young age. Christie went with her sister to her appointments and procedures, and it gave her a first-hand look at a specialized healthcare environment.
In high school, she was drawn to biology and science courses, which paved the way towards studying nursing.
“My parents have been a big support in helping me figure out what I wanted to do,” says Christie. “Before I graduated high school, I was stressed out about deciding on a career. I felt pressure to make a decision, and I didn’t realize I could change my mind later.”
Christie’s father is a mechanical engineer, and his father and two brothers are also engineers. Her oldest brother is a mechanical engineer, and her mother also has a degree in engineering.
“Healthcare was not a career path in my family,” says Christie. “My career decision was based on what I was interested in. My parents were very supportive of my decision to become a nurse, and supportive if I didn’t like it and wanted to do something else. They have helped to fund my education, and are very proud of my accomplishments. It definitely makes a difference.”
To get hands-on experience, she began volunteering at the QEH in Charlottetown. “I volunteered at the information desk, emergency department, and the physical medicine department. I gave information to hospital visitors, delivered flowers to patients on different units, and became more familiar with the hospital and how it works.
“While volunteering, I was also able to interact with other healthcare workers. I saw what they do on a daily basis and how the units function. I also got to know other youth volunteers who were interested in the same things I was.”
UPEI School of Nursing
When Christie entered the UPEI School of Nursing, she immediately enjoyed the challenge. “It was definitely harder than I thought it would be, but with my work ethic and my experience playing sports and learning team work, and with the support of my family, I knew I would be able to do it. I worked really hard, and I did better than I thought I would.”
How can involvement in sports contribute to personal growth?
From a young age, Christie has been involved in sports, playing ice hockey and field hockey. During her time at UPEI, Christie combined her school work with field hockey practices and games in Charlottetown and off Island.
“Time management was definitely a skill I had to fine tune over the last few years. I found the first year very challenging, because university is a lot different than high school. Managing the course load while playing a sport at the varsity level was definitely challenging, but I figured out ways to organize and stay ahead of school work that helped me handle the pressure.
“Being involved in the athletics community at UPEI has been a rewarding experience. Being involved in sports has helped make me into who I am today. It has been good for my personal growth, and for developing leadership and teamwork skills.”
Christie continues to gain healthcare experience through her job. During the school year, she works part-time, and she works full-time in the summers when she is not in school. In the summer of 2018, she was employed at the QEH through the Nursing Student Summer Employment Program. “I worked for eight weeks in Ambulatory Care, and I learned a lot,” says Christie.
In May 2018, Christie had the opportunity to do an international community health placement as part of the UPEI nursing curriculum. Students had a choice of working in Costa Rica, Honduras, or the Cayman Islands. This coming year, Ethiopia has been added to the list.
“I was really interested in this opportunity to get healthcare experience outside of Canada. I applied months in advance, and it was a competitive selection process.”
Christie was selected to go to the island of Grand Cayman to complete a placement with the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority. “I gained experience in community practice areas such as home care, general practice clinic, hemodialysis, school health, and specialist clinics.”
Currently, she is a Shift Supervisor at Andrew’s Community Care in Stratford. “It is great to work with seniors in a community care setting, to gain more independence and confidence in my knowledge and skills, and get more experience that will help me when I graduate.”
Representing the Nursing Society
For the past two years, Christie has also volunteered as a member of the UPEI Nursing Society and the Canadian Nursing Students Association, a national organization that represents nursing schools across Canada. As a representative, she has attended Atlantic and National CNSA conferences to represent UPEI.
“It is a great opportunity to learn about issues facing nurses across Canada, to interact with students from other schools, and to learn about all of the career opportunities in nursing. Getting involved with UPEI and communicating with faculty members and other nursing professionals outside of the school has been a great opportunity for me to develop my leadership skills and learn about the endless opportunities nursing has to offer.
“These seem like a lot of activities over the past few years, but I find that staying busy makes me more motivated to do better in school and to stay on top of things.”
Christie’s career path is going full circle. In January 2019, she will be doing her last clinical placement at the IWK. “I’m very excited about the opportunity to get experience outside of PEI and see what it is like to work in another healthcare setting,” says Christie.
“The IWK is very specialized in pediatric care, and that is an area I am really interested in.” During the nine-week placement at the IWK, she will be paired with an RN, working the same schedule.
“I worked really hard to get that placement. Requirements were based on grades, previous clinical experience, and your evaluations over the past four years. I had to write a letter to describe why I wanted to do my placement at IWK, provide references, and make sure my marks met the criteria. My experience with my sister being a patient at IWK was definitely one of the reasons I wanted to go there.
“Pursuing a nursing career has been very rewarding, and I have grown a lot personally and professionally over the last four years. In high school, I was pretty shy and quiet. Nursing has brought me out of my shell. As I interact with patients and their family members, I have become a lot more confident in my communications skills. It is so rewarding to help other people and to apply the knowledge that can help them improve their health.”
Once Christie graduates as a Registered Nurse, she hopes to eventually pursue a Masters program or the Nurse Practitioner program, which requires a few years of practical experience first. “There are a lot of options for a nursing career,” says Christie.
Besides working in a hospital, Registered Nurses can work in:
- Primary care
- Home care
- Community mental health and addictions
- Public health
“I am most interested in working in an acute care setting (short-term care in a hospital) but down the road, I may try other options.”