A family history of nursing and the future of health care: BC Children’s Hospital COO and INSPIRE Campaign champion Sarah Bell says embracing possibility is key

With three generations of nurses behind her, Sarah Bell, a BCIT Nursing alumna, seemed destined to work in the noble profession herself.

“Nursing is in my blood,” says Sarah, Chief Operating Officer of BC Children’s Hospital. “I’m a fourth-generation nurse in my family. At the heart of nursing is caring about people and that’s what really drew me in.”

In her family, each generation of nurses paved the way for the next. Her great-grandmother was part of the pioneering Victorian Order of Nurses, her grandmother trained at Vancouver General Hospital, and her mother became a nurse in Toronto. Sarah completed her nursing training at BCIT in 1994, and has spent much of her career in health care ever since.

This dedication to caring runs in her family. It also fuels Sarah to look for opportunities to advance the practice of nursing while overseeing the services provided to some of British Columbia’s most vulnerable sick and injured children.

Advancing health care in Canada

“As we have all experienced in this challenging year, health care plays an incredibly vital role in our communities,” says Sarah. “The state-of-the-art facility at BCIT’s new Health Sciences Centre will help graduates, who are already known for the ability to adapt, to transition to the workplace with that much more ease. And we’re going to be able to optimize the use of technology to, ultimately, provide better care for people all across the province.”

Sarah is helping BCIT build partnerships and raise funds for the $89.9 million Health Sciences Centre as a Campaign Cabinet member of the BCIT INSPIRE Campaign, the institute’s largest fundraising initiative in its 50-year history. Her experience and insight from both a clinical and a leadership perspective are instrumental in helping BCIT build partnerships and raise funds not only for the new Centre but also for all the initiatives under the Campaign, which focus on campus redevelopment, access and inclusion for students, and teaching and learning innovation.

Learn more about the BCIT INSPIRE Campaign. Visit bcit.ca/inspire

Healthcare education that leads

As a BCIT Nursing alumna and as someone who has hired BCIT graduates, Sarah knows first-hand the unique qualities and relevant skills that BCIT graduates bring to health care.

“One of the things that I really like about the way BCIT continues to support learning is the fact that it’s based in reality,” she explains. “You learn from really experienced people who themselves are practitioners. It’s not just theoretical; it’s a combination of the theoretical with practical clinical experience that really supports learning and sets the foundation for career growth and development.”

After graduating from the BCIT Nursing program, she worked as a bedside nurse for several years but her education didn’t stop there. Her passion for continued learning—a trait that she says BCIT helps develop in its students—spurred her on to earn an Executive MBA and then a certificate in mental health law.

No longer providing care at the bedside, Sarah is working towards advancing healthcare practice through leadership. For over 13 years, she’s led Children’s and Women’s mental health programs with the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA). Today, Sarah is the Chief Operating Officer of BC Children’s Hospital and serves as the interim Chief Nursing Officer and Head of Interprofessional Practice for BC Children’s Hospital and BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre.

“In nursing and in health care, there is always possibility,” she says. “For someone like me, someone who thrives on change, the possibilities always bring me back. I am not a status-quo kind of person. I am always looking for opportunities to advance care and harness innovation to improve the patient and family experience.”

Learn more about the BCIT School of Health Sciences and the Nursing program.

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