Just as Christina Dixon was getting ready to finish her preceptorship and graduate from the Nursing program at BCIT, the global pandemic led to nationwide lockdowns. So rather than resuming her hands-on training, working alongside a registered nurse to help real patients, Christina was suddenly wondering if she would be able to complete her degree.
To not finish her program would have been devastating. A visual artist by training with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Christina’s journey to becoming a nurse began when she felt inspired to do more to help people directly. “At first, I was interested in occupational therapy, but then I discovered a passion for nursing,” she says.
“I had friends in the field who knew that BCIT graduates are top-notch and highly sought after. I then learned that the program was condensed compared to other schools. I could tell it was the perfect fit.” But then COVID-19 happened and Christina wasn’t sure what the future of her program—or her career—would be.
Preparing students for the workforce
Thankfully, the instructors and staff at BCIT responded immediately, fielding conference calls with students to address their uncertainties and assess whether or not they still felt safe going to their hospital placements. “We got a lot of updates, which was good because people’s anxieties were fairly high, and we weren’t really sure what was going to happen,” says Christina.
BCIT provided Christina and her cohort with several options to continue their learning while in lockdown, while also preparing them for the possibility of encountering patients with COVID-19. “Our instructors were really awesome and gave us updated modules for personal protective equipment,” says Christina. “We also got access to virtual sims for free, as well as an online course for caring for ventilated patients.”
In addition, Christina completed a dedicated COVID-19 preparation course that was created by BCIT in direct response to industry demand. Available for free to all interested healthcare workers, the course has now been completed by over 11,000 learners across Canada and the US.
Though BCIT provided projects to work on and advice for job applications, the faculty were also understanding of students who needed to take time away to cope with stress and uncertainty. For Christina, though, the greatest benefit BCIT could offer was the ability to get back to her program as soon as possible, conclude her work, and graduate once the province-wide shutdowns were over.
“Clinical experience is the bread and butter of nursing, especially if you’re feeling skill-ready,” she says. “BCIT is known for some of the highest quality theory-based pathophysiology and critical thinking training in the field. And then when you have the practical skills to back it up, you feel so much better when you get out there.”
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Making a difference in the community
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Christina was also able to continue her work as a peer mentor with BCIT Indigenous Initiatives. “I’ve always wanted to get more involved with Indigenous health and healthcare,” she says. “In spite of lockdowns, we still had meet and greets and mentor chats online.” She credits the team at BCIT Indigenous Initiatives for supporting her through her studies, and inspiring her to make a difference in her practice.
Throughout this process, Christina was in touch with peers and colleagues who were doing their nursing studies at other schools in the province and heard that their curriculum had been heavily impacted by the pandemic—particularly the vital in-hospital training. Christina was motivated to continue her preceptorship onsite, and felt fortunate to have the option to do so. And while there, she had the opportunity to interview for a full-time position.
Despite the unique and unprecedented challenges brought on by the pandemic, Christina graduated on schedule, and was immediately hired at St. Paul’s Hospital, where she now works in its prestigious Providence Health Care Heart Centre. It goes to show that nothing could stand in the way of Christina’s determination—or the spirit of innovation at BCIT.
BCIT is committed to providing flexible, pandemic-resilient education. Learn more about how the Institute has pivoted to offer applied learning that goes above and beyond today’s health and safety guidelines, or contact an advisor to learn more about our blended learning model.