By Yoos, Cam on March 2, 2020.
While growing up, Diane Shanks spent countless hours in the halls and rooms of Lethbridge’s St. Michael’s Hospital. Her mother, Darlene (Darlo) Irvine, was head nurse of the operating room and Diane idolized her. From a young age, Diane knew that she wanted to follow in her footsteps.
A gifted athlete and student, Shanks was weighing her post-secondary options when her whole world was rocked. Her mother passed away from cancer at the age of 44. More determined than ever to carry on her mother’s legacy, Shanks chose to stay close to her home and family, and enrolled in the relatively new Nursing program at what was then Lethbridge Community College in 1979.
The college provided the best of both worlds – she pursued her education while playing for the women’s basketball team, the Kodiettes.
“The Nursing faculty were supportive of me pursuing athletics, even though the two-year program was quite demanding,” remembers Shanks.
Her basketball teammates became some of her closest friends and offered much-needed support as she finished her program.
“The college provided a really nice balance of both classroom knowledge, as well as hands-on practical experience. It prepared me quite well for entering the nursing profession.”
Her first job was at the University of Alberta hospital in Edmonton, before she returned to her hometown and her roots at St. Mike’s.
“I remember going to that hospital and knowing the nurses and doctors. My mom would sometimes have meetings at our house, so I really got to know the nursing and health-care community from that place. It was quite natural for me to go back there.”
Shanks completed her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Lethbridge and when St. Michael’s closed, she moved to Chinook Regional Hospital. Like her mother before her, she found her calling in the emergency room.
“It really challenges every aspect of your nursing knowledge, skills and expertise,” she explains of her passion for emergency care.
“You’re dealing with every kind of health-care scenario – young children, the elderly, maternity cases, orthopedics and broken bones, trauma, heart attacks, strokes. Patients who come in with such a huge variety of clinical presentations.”
As her career advanced, Shanks left the bedside for an administrative role as a Clinical Director. She played a key role in the development and evolution of the region’s emergency health system.
“I’ve been part of the regionalization of services, where we’ve standardized policies, procedures, equipment and developed an emergency network that I’m very proud of.”
She has also played an advisory role in post-secondary nursing education in southern Alberta, sitting as an alumni representative on the Nursing Education in Southwestern Alberta (NESA) Advisory Committee. In this role, she has been able to contribute to the design and development of nursing education in Lethbridge and provide feedback on current health-practice environment challenges.
But Shanks’ heart has always been with helping people. After retiring from her administrative role in 2017, she returned to the front lines and still works as an emergency room nurse – following the same passion that led her into her career nearly four decades earlier.
“When people come in, they don’t necessarily have a diagnosis yet and they are concerned. To be able to sort some of that out and help solve some of their problems, make them feel better, is very rewarding.”