By Lethbridge Herald on March 9, 2020.
Lethbridge College guest column – Bill Nykiel remembers the exact day he entered the Nursing program at what was then Lethbridge Community College. It was Sept. 7, 1984, and he was taking a big step, beginning a new career path as a married, 31-year-old father of two. It was the first exciting step in what would become a 35-year career.
Born in Lethbridge, but raised in Detroit, Mich., Nykiel worked as a Medical Laboratory Technologist before he and his family returned to southern Alberta. Unfortunately for him, related jobs were scarce and he subsequently worked in a non-health industry for several years.
“I began to feel a certain lack of fulfilment in my work life,” says Nykiel. “But a neighbour who was a Registered Nurse suggested on more than one occasion that it was likely I missed working in the health-care field and would make an excellent nurse.”
At the time, there were very few men in nursing and Nykiel initially shrugged off that option. But his neighbour persisted and mentioned that Lethbridge College had a wonderful nursing program. Nykiel agreed to at least make an appointment to speak with someone at the college.
That meeting was with Jean Valgardson, the chair of the Nursing program.
“The details are shadows, but the conversation impacted me enough that within weeks I found myself sitting in a classroom,” says Nykiel.
He was joined by 35 women and one other man. Besides influencing his decision to enter nursing, Valgardson had a large affect on Nykiel as a teacher in his student years, a supervisor when employed by the college as an instructor and as a colleague teaching mental-health nursing.
Following his graduation, Nykiel worked for two years at St. Michael’s Hospital on a post-operation surgical unit before he returned to Lethbridge College as an instructor, teaching surgery and mental health in both clinical and classroom settings.
At the college, Nykiel was taught by, and eventually worked with, a long list of excellent nursing educators.
“There are so many, but I have to mention Joyce D’Andrea,” says Nykiel. “During my student years, it was Joyce who ingrained the importance of critical inquiry and evidence-based practice and set the tone for how I approached the different roles I’ve had during my career.”
In 2000, he assumed the role of placement co-ordinator for the college’s Southern Alberta Collaborative Nursing Education program. By 2003, the practice-based experiences for all Health and Wellness programs were under his care as co-ordinator of the newly-created Placement Office.
“The evolution of the Placement Office took years to develop,” says Nykiel. “I’m very proud of the work I contributed, and thankful for the administrative support that helped move this vision forward.”
Nykiel has been recognized with both the ANEA Leadership in Nursing Education Award and the NISOD Excellence Award. Besides being recognized by professional bodies in nursing and education, Nykiel is well respected within the province as a leader by practice agencies. He is a member of the HSPnet-AB Management Committee and chairs the provincial HSPnet-AB Data Stewardship Committee.
While his roles have changed, Nykiel’s biggest reward is being able to share his passion for health care with students and seeing them continue on to successful careers.