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Alumni Engagement

Career path leads through Red River College and back again

February 8, 2021

Like many young Canadians in the early 2000s, Jaime Manness went west. After a stint working in an oil-field camp in Northern B.C., she came home to Manitoba.

Red River College has figured in her career path ever since.

“My sister was in the Health Care Aide program and that occupation appealed to me as well,” she says. “But as soon as I completed the program, I wanted to go further in health care.”

Admission to the College’s (then four-year) Bachelor of Nursing program required Manness to upgrade her high school credits. She’s grateful the College offered a 10-month preparatory course to do just that.

After graduating from RRC with a Nursing degree in 2009, Manness began her career as an Emergency nurse at Health Sciences Centre. Though Emergency is an intensely stressful area for a newly minted nurse, Manness says the program prepares grads to succeed.

“The program concentrates on practical knowledge,” she says. “It builds up students to feel comfortable asking questions.”

“After four years of structured learning, you’re equipped with a cautious, calm confidence. You know your limitations but also how to ask for help and find support.”

Manness counts several of her classmates as friends to this day, adding that College faculty and graduates form a valuable support network throughout a career.

In 2018, Manness returned to Red River College as a part-time instructor, adding an extra dimension to her nursing skill set.

“I had enjoyed mentoring a couple of students in Emergency years earlier but still never imagined coming back as an instructor. A friend thought I’d be a good teacher. It’s nice to develop a different area of my professional practice.”

The pandemic presents a new logistical challenge for teaching groups of students within a hospital setting. However, the core attributes of a good nurse are the same as ever, Manness says.

“There’s a process students go through where they come to realize a nurse’s impact and responsibility for the care of patients, and the level of integrity it requires.”

As an instructor, Manness values the time she spends with students, particularly as they develop their clinical skills.

“I always look at it as, ‘Soon I’ll be working side-by-side with them.’ In whatever ways I can help shape them and lead them to success, we’ll be peers.”

That includes an emphasis on self-care.

“I encourage my students to set aside time for themselves, apart from their studies and career. You get so much back by investing in yourself.”

“When I graduated, there was little emphasis on self-care. As a nurse, you look after others, but no one urges you to look after yourself.

Manness gets much of her self-care on Manitoba’s hiking trails. So deep is her fondness for hiking that she wrote and published Hike Manitoba, a compilation of 51 hikes around the province.

Released in June 2020, the lightweight, coil-bound volume — complete with trail tips and etiquette, evocative photos, hand-drawn maps and lovely watercolour cover art — is designed with a hiker’s needs in mind. The book became a local best-seller, prompting Manness to publish a second volume dedicated to winter hikes.

For popularizing Manitoba’s under-the-radar hiking trails and “inspiring new adventures,” Manness landed on Ace Burpee’s Top 100 Most Fascinating Manitobans list for 2020.

“I had no idea that was happening,” she says with a laugh. “Friends were calling to congratulate me on being fascinating.”

A volunteer for Trails Manitoba since 2015, Manness turned to hiking as an adult with fond memories of family camping trips as a youngster.

“I was chasing that restful, tired feeling at night,” she says. “I wanted a kind of mental and physical exhaustion to a point where I would get a good night’s sleep. The more I hiked, the more peaceful I felt.”

While she’s covered much of the province by ground, Manness has also taken to the air. She’s proud to have served as a nurse with Lifeflight, which has a distinguished record of providing critical-care medical air transport for patients in Northern Manitoba. She calls that achievement the realization of a dream that “reshaped what I think I’m capable of.”

With her experience as a student, a nurse and an instructor, Manness has a place in her heart for Red River College. So much so, that she is in the final stages of setting up an award for nursing students, so they can succeed like she has.

“I’m so proud of the school. I’m an RRC donor and I’m the first person in my family to get a degree — all because the good folks at RRC were there with the right programs and incredible instructors.”

Profile by Randy Matthes (Creative Communications, 1993)

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