By Lethbridge Herald on April 28, 2020.
Lethbridge College is celebrating 50 years of Nursing education. To mark the occasion, the college is highlighting five alumni from five different decades to show how the program has evolved. This is part four, featuring an alumna from Nursing’s fourth decade. To learn more about Nursing education at Lethbridge College, visit learn.lc/health-and-wellness.
Sometimes parents really do know best – or at least see something in you that you don’t necessarily see yourself. Kristen Haase learned that first-hand.
After graduating high school, she wasn’t sure what would come next, but her parents had an idea. “I’m not sure I chose nursing, so much as my parents chose it for me – and they made a good choice!”
As a teenager, Haase gravitated towards jobs that helped people. She volunteered at her great-grandfather’s care home and later became a lifeguard. Her mother was a nurse and knew how valuable those skills are in that profession. Now, 15 years into a successful career that has taken her across multiple provinces and different jurisdictions, she has no regrets. But it took her some time to come around to the idea of nursing. “The truth is, I didn’t think I wanted to be a nurse,” she says. “Having seen many one-dimensional portrayals of nurses presenting them as doctor’s assistants, it was not an appealing career.”
Just 17 years old when she enrolled at Lethbridge College, Haase spent much of her first two years wondering whether she had made the right choice. Many of her classmates were passionate and self-assured with their career choice and she wasn’t sure where she fit in. And then one day, it all clicked. “It was really learning about research and policy that made me feel like there was a place for me” Haase remembers. “I think this is a common feeling for people entering nursing, they don’t really know the expansive career they are entering. Nursing might not be your ‘calling’, but it is an essential profession that makes a huge impact on society.”
Far from being one-dimensional, Haase realized how many vital roles nurses play in the health care system – and how multi-faceted their skills are. “Nursing is full of endless possibilities,” she says. “I always tell students and trainees that there are jobs in nursing they can’t even imagine. The opportunities are infinite. Registered nurses are doing amazing things in primary care, research, technology, policy, and numerous other sectors.”
To understand the many important roles played by nurses in the health care system, Haase says to look no further than the current COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses are on the front lines in health centres and hospitals, running testing centres, contact tracing, and caring for patients who have contacted COVID. It was actually a planning exercise for a potential pandemic that was one of the key touchpoints in Haase’s Lethbridge College education.
“The Health Centre nurse came to our class to talk about the role of nursing in a pandemic,” she says. “The role of nurses – even student nurses – in such a crisis, was really clear. That was when the power and scope of the role of nursing started to coalesce for me.”
While earning her undergraduate degree at the University of Lethbridge, an introductory research course piqued her interest. It sent her down a path of studying and training in the field of psychosocial oncology and she has since completed a Master’s degree and her PhD in Nursing from the University of Ottawa.
Haase is now an assistant professor in Nursing at the University of Saskatchewan, where her research focuses on supporting older adults with cancer and their caregivers, specifically those managing multiple chronic diseases alongside cancer. She intends to continue building her research in this area, both in Canada and internationally.
“It’s been interesting to witness how the number of older adults with cancer has grown, but services, supports and treatments are not adequately targeted to their needs,” she says. “I think there is enough work for a lifetime, and I look forward to doing my part.”
Haase might not have chosen nursing, but her parents’ intuition proved correct – and eventually nursing chose her.