Celebrating National #NursingWeek: UBC’s Jennifer Baumbusch on nursing education

Despite the impact of the pandemic students are still keen to start nursing careers

Jennifer Baumbusch is well-known across B.C.’s continuing care sector for her work as Associate Professor at UBC School of Nursing. People on the Twitter social media platform will be familiar with her as well through her @GERONursing handle. A friend to many in our organization and passionate advocate for seniors health, she has participated in many panels and public dialogues hosted by BC Care Providers Association and other organizations over the years.

The nursing profession has been at the forefront of the pandemic response, and stories about workload and nurse shortages are factoring heavily in the debate about the future of healthcare in Canada. As one of BC’s preeminent nursing educators, we wanted to check in with Jennifer as part of our #NursesWeek series of sector profiles. Here is her take on what’s happening in nursing education today.

How has the past 2 years of the pandemic affected students coming into UBC’s nursing school?

Students coming into the program still have boundless enthusiasm for nursing. I actually really enjoy my time with the students because they’re coming in with eyes open after the pandemic, and all that they’ve heard about it and all they’ve read, but they’re also full of passion. Part of my job is to grow that passion for working with older adults.

Are any students rethinking nursing as a career choice?

To get into a nursing program anywhere is highly competitive, and part of the admissions process is that we’re looking know if this person understands what their career is going to be.

We have people who are paramedics, in different professions who have already worked in healthcare and are now coming into nursing. We also have people who have done extensive volunteer work who have lots of life experience, so when they come in, they are not devoid of understanding of what a career in nursing is.

While some may complete the program, work as a nurse for a while and then go into a different area. But you never stop being a nurse. I taught a student years ago that went on to become a firefighter. Or look at (City of North Vancouver) Mayor Linda Buchanan, who’s also a nurse. While you might leave the profession, being a nurse shapes your world view.

What are the reasons people choose a career in nursing today, say, as opposed to years ago?

There’s lots of reasons to be a nurse, and of course you’ll always have a job out there for you. But looking at my own 25-plus year career, I’ve worked as a staff nurse, as an educator, as a clinician, as a manager, and I’ve worked in policy and research. It really is a vibrant career because you can evolve and grow throughout your career, whether you have the same job or try many different roles using your nursing background. The opportunities are endless.

How do you convince your students to pursue working with seniors?

I think role modeling helps. Our students see me, Dr. Lillian Hung and Dr. Alison Phinney and we’re pretty passionate people, so students come to their own realization [that working with seniors] is not what it seems. Many people have ageist conceptualizations about working with older people, and we help them see the work differently. When they come to me saying they’re interested in working with seniors, I try to make them feel supported and introduce them to leaders in this field of work, which I’ve found over the years is the best way to approach this kind of recruitment.

Once you meet a nurse who is passionate about working with older people, that’s the best advertising that we have.

To learn more about the UBC School of Nursing visit https://nursing.ubc.ca