The following is an interview from one of our student advisors here at Red River College:
Twenty years ago, I made the decision to work in the most rewarding career. I have never regretted this decision. How could you not love a career where you work with people and help them on their most difficult day. Or celebrate with them as they recover from an illness. Now I share my knowledge, experience, and love for the profession with students, encouraging them and celebrating with them as they complete their program and start their journey into the nursing profession! My name is Jennifer Fontaine; I am a nursing instructor/student advisor in the nursing program at Red River College.
When did you graduate from nursing and from which program?
I completed my degree in Nursing at the University of Manitoba in 2000. I started working as a graduate nurse in December of 1999. Since they were very short of nurses in the workforce that year, there was a small group of us who completed the 4th year of our program by fast-tracking (those of us who did this called it fast-fast tracking!!). We finished our 3rd year of the program in April, had a week off and then started 4th year and were done by December! It was very intense.
What was the most memorable moment of your nursing student life?
The most memorable moments of my nursing student life was making the connections from theory to practice, making life-long friends that I did my program with, and that although it was so much work, the end result was well worth it!
Where did you first work as a nurse? What was your first day like? What kind of emotions did you feel? What were some coping strategies?
I started working as a graduate nurse on a surgical ward at St. Boniface Hospital. I was offered a job there before I had completed my Senior Practicum. I remember coming to work for my first shift as a grad nurse thinking “wow, yesterday I was a student and today I am on my own.” That first shift I had a critically ill patient who I ended up transferring to ICU. I was so nervous. My team-mates from the surgical unit (whom I got to know from doing my Senior Practicum) helped support/guide me and gave me many words of encouragement. I was not alone. I had a great team of experienced nurses that I could lean on. I had to remember that and I had to remind myself often that I was a novice nurse who was still learning. This was okay. The experience would come. This helped me to get through that first day and many other days. I was also always the type of person who was never scared to ask questions. My motto became that when in doubt, check or ask questions first!
Thinking back, did you ever imagine that you would be doing what you are doing now?
When I started nursing school, I thought I would always work in public health, but once I started getting closer to the completion of my nursing program, I realized that I liked working in acute areas. I ended up working in surgery for a while, then going on to work adult emergency and cardiac ICU. After getting the chance to be a preceptor to nursing students on many occasions, I decided to pursue working as an educator and that brought me to Red River College. I think my ultimate goal of wanting to help people still holds true, but instead of currently doing this in a hospital setting working with patients and families, I now love working with nursing students by supporting them and guiding them as they complete their educational goals.
Any words of wisdom that you would like future nurses to know about nursing?
Value each learning experience. There is always something to learn from every situation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for help when needed. The great thing about nursing is there are so many opportunities and the important thing is to keep challenging yourself, keep learning, and then one day share your love and passion for nursing with others and mentor and guide those who are just starting their journey into nursing!
Post written by Jennifer Fontaine – Nursing Instructor
Questions by Corrina Zacharkiw – Nursing Instructor