Nov. 3, 2023
Flex Friday: Kristi-Anne Wingert
Welcome to another Flex Friday feature of the 2023/24 academic year! This week, we are introducing Kristi-Anne Wingert, a third-year direct entry route student completing Term 5 this fall. Kristi shares her experiences to this point in her nursing school experience — from high intensity clinical days to the high demands of her extracurricular endeavors, and the way she has persevered throughout it all. Meet Kristi!
Why did you choose nursing?
“Nursing was actually my second choice coming into university. My first choice was the biological medicine program, but I didn’t get into biomed which I am actually really thankful for. I was really put off at first but when I started nursing, I found I really liked it, and I like the practical component much more than I think I would have liked just doing science and medicine all the time.”
Why did you choose to study at the University of Calgary?
“I got into the University of Alberta as well, but with the current cost of living, particularly housing, [I chose] UCalgary because I got a scholarship that covered my education, which made me think I can stay at home, keep my job, and live with my parents to have support while being able to afford standards of living and focusing on my academics because it is not cheap.”
What was the reason for why you received that scholarship?
“The scholarship was called the Kermet Archibald & Jacoba Van den Brink Entrance Bursary through Education Matters. I have been through a lot of trauma in my life; I have lost a parent, I have lived in an abusive household for a couple of years, and I have had a lot of mental health struggles. Despite that, I was able to do a lot of leadership activities, maintain a 96 per cent grade point average, and did sports all through high school, which COVID-19 put a stop to, unfortunately, which was demonstrative of my perseverance and strength. The exact wording they use [in the bursary description] is 'perseverance through adversity.'"
Did those experiences lend themselves to your choice to pursue a career in the health-care field?
“The adversities really helped me relate to my patients a lot more. I knew I wanted to do health care since I was 14, and the more I got involved the more I noticed a lot was wrong with health care when I was looking into it. For example, the extended wait times for medical attention, especially in mental health and the amount of stigma in the health care system. I think there’s a lot of opportunity for improvement, Obviously, there’s a lot of good within the system too, but I think for me, I enjoy and appreciate nursing because I want to help improve things and help people avoid traumatic experiences or at least be able to heal from them better than I did.”
Can you describe your volunteer experiences?
“I volunteered for a month in Europe this past summer at KINITRO which is an NGO focused on individuals with disabilities and educating general populations about disabilities. Essentially, I provided a lot of education about lived experiences of disabilities to foster a more accepting and inclusive environment. Some of my tasks included generating comprehensive reports, and creating simulations to help people to understand digital literacy and how that may be difficult with older adults, which can contribute to ageism. I did some volunteering with the hospital as well. I volunteered at the gift shop at South Health Campus [where] I learned a lot about retail therapy, and I was really young but got to meet many people. I also did one shift for friendly visits where I got to go in and chit chat [with patients], but I ended up in an uncomfortable situation and did not feel comfortable continuing. Additionally, during my Winter semester of second year, I volunteered at the Q Center on campus as a desk volunteer. It was so much fun and I got to meet so many people and to create space for them. It allowed me to become interested in advocacy.”
What has been your biggest take away from your volunteer experience?
“The biggest thing was it was very eye-opening. I grew up in a bit of a turbulent household, but this has shown me that even though I had those struggles, there are so many things happening in the world and so many injustices that have shown me there is a lot I can work towards changing. This has helped me put things in perspective and keep my cool. When things happen, I can remain calm because I’ve already seen a lot and I know there are little things we can do for them to help elevate their experiences.”
Can you describe your work experiences?
“My first job was at Tim Hortons which to be honest, I don’t really have much to say about other than I worked there for six years. However, my second job at Starbucks helped me a lot with nursing, surprisingly. The experience helped me to develop my psychosocial skills as the emphasis of friendly conversation and small talk taught me how to quickly build rapport with strangers and talk to them like they were my best friends within five to ten minutes.”
What has been your biggest take away from your work experience?
“My work has shown me that I have 10 minutes to make a difference in someone’s day so I can either stare at the screen and wait for them to go away, or I can have a conversation with them. I don’t know if this just a me thing, because apparently it doesn’t happen to my coworkers, but I have had customers disclose to me that they are on their way to a funeral, they are on their way to a surgery…and it has taught me that we don’t know what people are doing each day, so if I have the capacity, I smile or say hello, which can have such an impact on someone’s day.
"Despite the stress that may come with life, since we do have bad days, these people are not deserving of my bad mood, so bringing that negativity into the space influences those interactions."
Can you describe your UCalgary experiences?
“I have been involved in a few things with UCalgary. I was an orientation leader heading into my second year. That was how I met so many people. It was really fun because there was so much good energy and laughter. I actually learned where things are on campus and it introduced me to the concept of getting involved in things to actually enjoy my degree. My first year was really rough as I had a lot of things happen personally to me and lots of struggles. In my second year, I decided I wanted to enjoy my degree whereas my first year was very much going to class, going home, going to class and going home.
“I joined the Student Union (SU) in my third year, from May to this most recent election. I was very involved, particularly by attending lots of events and focused advocacy efforts. I got the faculty to clarify the out-of-province [placements] for fourth years and extend the survey submission dates through escalating the situation to the proper levels and working extensively with students and university staff. Unfortunately, I was doing all that during the campaign week and trying to study for midterms. I’m very happy it worked out the way it did so I can refocus on my academics a little bit and work on my own projects. I also worked very hard on Connect Care and I learned a lot about advocacy and the way the faculty works. It has been inspiring me with a few of my own little advocacy projects that I’m working on. I don’t think I want to run in the re-election because there were many things I didn’t really agree with, but I did enjoy the nursing aspect of it and advocating for change.”
What has been your biggest take away from your UCalgary experience?
“You get what you put into this degree. You can just go to class and go home, and that’s fine: if that’s the comfort level and that is all you have the capacity for, then power to you. For me, [my involvement] showed me to make the most of this experience, because I don’t want to do this again, so taking these opportunities to trial things [is very opportune]. It’s almost like a launch pad where you can try things and it won’t come back to hurt you. So, if I had done SU and done absolutely nothing, it wouldn’t have impacted me. Try these things while you’re an adult and you have the time, but also there won’t be a life or career-threatening impact on you. You also meet a lot of people who have similar interests or mindsets to you, so it’s really cool to know other people think like you.”
What has been your main strength during your nursing school experience?
“My main strength has been my psychosocial [skills]. I’m very good at talking to my patients and empathizing with them and building that connection. I cannot walk into a room and just do a procedure. I will chat with my patient my entire time. It was a strength in long-term care, and got noticed by the unit manager, because I knew every patient’s name on the unit by having conversations as we went along. In nursing and in SU, it’s helped me put people at ease.”
What has been your main challenge during your nursing school experience?
“My tendency to overwhelm myself. I’m pretty good at managing my time, but we only have 24 hours in the day, although I wish we had more! I tend to pile too much on my plate and burn myself out. I want to do everything and I can't, which annoys me to no end. So that’s my biggest weakness — not being aware of my time limits or setting time aside for myself.”
How has your nursing experience been the same or different from your expectations?
“It has been similar to what I’ve expected in terms of the workload in third year. First and second year, I found much slower paced, and the third year hit like a truck. I don’t think my working with SU helped with that, but I’m still very thankful and thoroughly enjoyed my experiences. What has been different is the emphasis on communication; I did not expect to have a full semester on how to talk to people. I think I grew up with psychosocial skills, and was familiar with the mental health system where I had to talk to people, and if you didn’t, that might be a good thing because you have less trauma, but it also can impact your knowledge of how to talk to different people in crisis. I expected more of Term 5 throughout the program, and evidently, the program is changing in the coming years so it’ll look a lot different than the way I’ve experienced it.”
What has been your favourite course in nursing school?
“As much as I’ve developed a sort of apathy for this semester due to burnout, I really enjoy pathophysiology and pharmacology and it’s always been what I was interested in.
[While] studying for my pharmacology midterm this week, I’m actually really enjoying the topic which has helped. It piques the science brain in me, I like thinking through processes: I see them as a puzzle which gets my brain to be like a little detective, like ‘if this is happening, then what’s happening?’”
What has been your biggest success so far in nursing school?
“My biggest success might’ve been clinical this semester. This semester has been very turbulent for me: we’ve had a lot of mistakes and I’ve burned out a couple days. On my second day, we had a code, and I stayed in the room and helped out, which was very cool because that’s kind of where I want to go — somewhere trauma-focused like the Emergency Room or the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). So being told by the unit manager and my instructor that I did well [was a success]; I didn’t just stand against the wall was really meaningful.”
What was your role in that code situation?
“Currently, we have one primary patient and one secondary patient. I was doing a head-to-toe assessment on my primary patient, and when I went into my secondary patient’s room, I knew I had to assess the blood pressure on their thigh. They never really teach you how to do a thigh blood pressure, so I asked my instructor to come with me to make sure I’m not doing it incorrectly. The blood pressure ended up being quite low, and during the entire time, [the patient] was talking and was alert and oriented. When I asked whether she had other symptoms like a headache or lightheadedness, she confirmed she had them so I reported it to the patient’s nurse. My instructor mentioned that I should stay in the room since this was a critical situation. When the nurse came into the room, they could not find IV access anywhere, and when her level of consciousness started to decline, they called a code 66¹.
The unit manager ended up getting an IV into the foot, but I learned they’re very finicky if we have to administer a bolus through them. Throughout the code, I was there encouraging the patient saying ‘you’re doing great’ and walking her through breathing exercises because she was visibly upset, and I was cleaning up extra materials from the IV insertions. At one point, the RT came in to assess her neurological presentation, but they called the patient by the wrong name which the patient didn’t respond to so they deemed the patient not alert and oriented, but I spoke up and said that’s not the patient’s name. After that, the patient did actually present as alert and oriented. So I stayed in the room and communicated lots of things to different people coming in and out of the room. I was really burned out that week; I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue with nursing, but that really showed me that I do really like this.”
¹ A Code 66 is called in the hospital setting as an anticipatory alert for a patient nearing a Code Blue status (no breathing or no pulse).
What has been the most wholesome moment throughout your nursing school experience?
“A lot of the people I’ve met in nursing — we have become quite close. We’ll just laugh and make jokes to remember things. One of my patients died on my first shift in our long-term care placement and that was really hard, but I bonded really well with my group because we would go for lunch after, or do locked rooms. [It was] having that support and getting to know those people [and] just being able to laugh after seeing so many things and having such stressful situations.”
What career path do you plan to pursue after graduating?
“My goal, since I was a kid, was always to get into medical school. I haven’t quite decided if that’s still the path. It’s still on my radar and I’m supposed to be writing my MCAT this summer. I know for sure I need a year off after I’m done with school. I think what I’m looking into now is travel nursing or medical school after that year off. I would love to do something in neurosciences ICU because I love the neurological system, that intensity, and getting to see lots of codes. I always change my future plans though, so we’ll see.”
How do you think you’ve changed since starting nursing school?
“I’ve changed a lot and I don’t know if it’s strictly nursing. As a backstory, in my first year, I was in an abusive relationship and we had a nasty breakup during that year, and I actually ended up hospitalized for mental health and a suicide attempt in that week. My first year was not fun, but I learned a lot of skills and met a lot of people after that time. The personality that I entered nursing school with was very shy; I did not talk to anyone, I was very insecure, I was not who I am now and I had a very negative outlook on life. Now, despite all the knowledge I have, I try and be very optimistic and I would not have done half the things I have done had I not gone through that experience.
Looking back, the energy, my entire group of friends is different, and my outlook on life is very different. I used to think ‘whatever happens, happens’ but now I think ‘I’m going to have fun, I’m going to get involved, I’m going to do what I can, and not be afraid of people anymore.’ Obviously, trauma is ongoing and it still affects me every now and then, but I have definitely learned and grown a lot since starting this degree.”
What would be your biggest piece of advice to incoming students?
“Make the most of your degree. It is fine to just go to class, but try to get involved because you only get to do this [program] once most likely and hopefully [so get] involved, meet people and make it how you want to make it.”
Are there any final words you would like to end on?
“I always think of it like, even if I can’t change everything, the things I can change still matter.”