National Nursing Week: an ode to student nurses

Header image for the article National Nursing Week: an ode to student nurses Credit: Western-Fanshawe Nursing Students' Association
Aira Guerrero is the President of the Western-Fanshawe Nursing Students' Association.

National Nursing Week is an annual celebration that takes place from the Monday to the Sunday of the same week as Florence Nightingale's birthday on May 12.

By now, many of us are familiar with the tireless efforts that have been put forward by the world’s healthcare professionals amid COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, nurses across the globe have been heralded for their bravery on the frontlines, their perseverance in times of great pain, and their dedication through a period in history that would have crushed the spirits of a less-resilient group.

And yet, according to the Toronto Star, nursing programs across Ontario saw a 73 per cent rise in applications for the 2020-21 academic year. The Ontario Universities’ Application Centre received 6,157 applications for nursing programs in January 2020. By January 15, 2021 they received a combined 10,637 applications.

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As COVID-19 patients surge in hospitals and long-term care homes, more and more students are answering the call to serve on the frontlines.

“Given the circumstances of the pandemic, it’s highlighting even more to the rest of the world in society who may not have noticed nurses in the first place,” said President of the Western-Fanshawe Nursing Students' Association, Aira Guerrero. “And I think more people are realising how important nursing is to the healthcare field, especially when it comes to COVID patients.So I think that all the stories are being highlighted more this past year, and a lot of students are realising that….nursing is one of the greatest careers that they can possibly choose from in the healthcare field.”

It’s no wonder that the theme of this year’s National Nursing Week is #WeAnswerTheCall.

Guerrero recently completed her second year in the Collaborative Nursing program between Fanshawe College and Western University. Starting in the fall, she’ll be studying at Western full-time.

“I am very excited, because year three students from Western and Fanshawe, we're getting combined, so we're going to meet a lot of new people and I'm very excited,” she said.

In the meantime, Guerrero is working as a Personal Support Worker in Victoria Hospital’s oncology ward.

“It's my first clinical experience and real job experience in the hospital setting,” said Guerrero, who has long-term goals of working in an ICU or emergency room setting. “So I think it'll be great.”

Guerrero isn’t the only one feeling confident about the future. Fellow third year Collaborative Nursing student, and former Interrobang contributor, Salma Hussein said she feels more motivated now than ever to pursue a career in nursing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It just makes me more proud and honoured to be in a career that's oriented to help people and honestly to be on the frontlines and sacrifice your personal life to help others,” explained Hussein. “I think it's just such an honour to be working towards being one of those people.”

Hussein also recently completed her second year in the Collaborative Nursing program, graduating from Fanshawe to study full-time at Western. For her, studying nursing during a pandemic was a difficult adjustment.

“It was completely online for me, second semester,” she said. “So it was just a little bit too much sitting at home.”

Luckily, Hussein won’t be sitting at home much anymore, now that she has taken up a position in a developmental disabilities geriatric ward for the second summer in a row.

“I like it because it’s very specialized,” she said. “It focuses on helping people with developmental disabilities, which is a very interesting field of healthcare and also just helps you develop skills. Some of them are non-verbal, they have behaviours. It’ll toughen you up very quickly.”

Toughening up is exactly what nurses have had no choice but to do over the course of this past year. In honour of National Nursing Week, Guerrero sent a message to all the nurses currently on the frontlines.

“Thank you to the nurses who have been working through the pandemic and being good role models for not only the rest of the community, upholding those values of health and safety, but also being good role models for nursing students as well,” she said. “A lot of them are professors and teaching in their spare time on top of everything else they're doing. So I just want to let them know that a lot of nursing students look up to them.”