Demand for skilled healthcare professionals is rising in Canada as the industry continues to face labour shortages (Statistics Canada, 2023) that significantly impact small, rural communities like Wainwright, Alberta.
“It’s just me and one receptionist at a small clinic serving a large geographic area,” says Samantha Bienias, the one medical sonographer stationed at a remote ultrasound office in Wainwright. Before Samantha was hired this year, technologists from other surrounding communities staffed the location, requiring long-distance travel and the occasional weather-related closure.
Now, the local area can depend on Samantha’s expertise to answer their crucial diagnostic questions. Her schedule is consistently busy, noting that she sees 15 patients a day, including last-minute emergencies.
Samantha, who graduated from BCIT’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography diploma program in 2020, says that with no on-site doctor at the clinic, her technical precision is paramount: “There’s no room for error. For a timely diagnosis, it’s essential that I find pathology, including cancers and other serious issues.”
After only a few years into her career, the alumna embodies the confidence and commitment of a seasoned professional. She says that her confidence grew through training, but her purpose-led drive emerged much earlier in her life.
Scanning for inspiration
After Samantha earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Queen’s University in Ontario, she was searching for her next move and sought the advice of her father (also a proud BCIT alum who worked for BC Hydro for his entire 38-year career after graduation).
“My dad would always say that his job was to keep the lights on,” says Samantha. “He took pride in his education and how his day-to-day work impacted the broader community. I admired that.”
When it came time to narrow down her career, she says BCIT’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography program stood out to her: “I wanted to specialize in a skill that helps people. Just like my dad.”
Learning to leap at BCIT
In 2018, Samantha returned to the west coast, where she grew up, to begin her new journey as a student at BCIT. She excelled as a student and a leader, earning exceptional grades and acting as a student representative on the Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program Advisory Committee.
But just a couple months before graduating, the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily paused her practicum, which she was splitting between Vancouver Island and the Okanagan. Demonstrating her determination, Samantha stayed focused on her goals and graduated with distinction.
Her resolve made her a natural leader. Samantha represented her class as an inspiring valedictorian at the Winter 2021 Convocation as well as a moving speaker at the high-profile BCIT Health Sciences Centre ground-breaking ceremony in 2019.
After graduation, Samantha took an interprovincial leap to work for Medical Imaging Consultants in Edmonton, Alberta where she worked for two years.
“Despite being in an entirely new province, there were no gaps in my training,” she says. “I learned a lot, and there were also things I was recently taught at BCIT that I was able to educate my Albertan colleagues on.”
Impacting the future
Samantha, who is also a published author through her undergraduate research on women’s sexual and reproductive health, sees herself teaching and working abroad in the future and one day settling back in BC.
For now, she is focused on continuing to grow her expertise and making a difference in her current role: “There are hard days. We deal with early-pregnancy failure regularly and cancer. But I come home knowing I made a difference in someone’s diagnostic journey … and that feels good.”
BCIT is proud to recognize Samantha Bienias with a 2023 BCIT Outstanding Student Leadership Award at the awards gala on November 2, 2023.