Dec. 9, 2019

Interactions with students and alumni energize long-time UCalgary Nursing staffer

50 Faces of Nursing: Karen Cook, Senior Manager Communications

“A lot of people are gobsmacked when I tell them how long I have worked in the Faculty of Nursing, especially my communications and marketing peers,” laughs UCalgary Nursing’s communications manager Karen Cook, adding that it was never her intention to remain past five years in her role. But almost 20 years later, she continues to be inspired by the energy on campus, the dedication of faculty and staff members and the ability of the students to tough it out to achieve their goal of becoming a registered nurse.

Cook’s role is to oversee the strategic communications of the faculty, ensuring it aligns with the overall vision and direction of the university.

“Creating awareness of how great UCalgary Nursing is and the terrific things we do here is the goal," she says. "I work within an amazing team who make me look good every single day and I get to interact with students, academics, our community - it's a lot of fun and that’s why they haven’t been able to get rid of me. I love my job: I rarely have two days that are the same.”

Cook is not a stranger to academia having worked as a communications specialist at the University of Manitoba for several years. “It was there I caught the bug; I always say that you either hate academia and don’t stick around or you love it and are a lifer. I’m obviously a lifer and I have the wrinkles to prove it.”

50 Faces of Nursing:  Karen Cook, Senior Manager Communications

Karen Cook is Nursing's Senior Manager, Communications, a role she's held for nearly 20 years.

What's a memorable experience you had at UCalgary Nursing and why it's significant in your life or career.

"Probably the most pivotal moment for me was when a student I mentored as part of UCalgary’s Emerging Leaders Program and who I really felt I was helping, suddenly quit school. I was devastated: I felt that I could have helped him turn it around if only he had confided in me about his struggles. Of course, that only makes me sound like I think I am very important and powerful! But since that experience, my empathy for what these students go through has grown. I have made more of an effort to look at each and every student I meet as an individual with very unique strengths."

What most excites you about the future of nursing or changes coming in the profession?

"Oh my gosh: our students and the next generation of RNs! Every year I am astonished at the amazing – truly outstanding – people who enter our program and decide to devote themselves to this challenging career. I am not a nurse (although I often say I have become one through osmosis): I could never do it, but I am so grateful that there are people who take it on."

Is there a nursing issue you are especially passionate about or you would like to change?

"I have loved this 50 Faces of Nursing initiative and agree with so many who have said that nurses need to take on leadership roles, whatever that looks like to them. There are no greater advocates for wellness or harder workers in the health-care workplace than the ones who see all of us at our most vulnerable. Who better to instigate change then those who see it from all sides?"

What piece of advice would you like to share with aspiring nurses?

"The UCalgary Nursing staff and faculty are really committed to your success, even if you think we aren't. There is nothing more satisfying to me than watching a student progress through the program and all its incredible challenges, graduate and then come back to us as an alum who love what they do."

Is there one luxury in life you would rather not live without?

"Orson, my English Setter puppy! It is really an extravagance to have a purebred dog, especially when there are so many rescues out there that need loving homes. I try to remind myself how fortunate I am every time he eats a dishcloth or destroys my vacuum cord. But in the short time I have had him, I am convinced I would be lost without him."

All through 2019, we've highlighted 50 Faces of Nursing, profiling nursing members in celebration of our 50th anniversary. For more, visit