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Sometimes, one nurse can make a world of difference. When Alicia Bruyere’s mother suffered a stroke in 2012, it was a particular nurse’s kindness and open communication that made her hospital stay bearable. This experience even inspired Alicia to pursue nursing herself.
Alicia already had a full-time job, however, and no idea how to change careers. She had a high school diploma, but realized she needed to upgrade numerous courses to enroll in post-secondary nursing programs. First, she tried online upgrading but found it too difficult to tackle alone. “I just needed to be in a classroom environment,” she says.
For Alicia, school also held some bad memories. Born in the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba, Alicia spent only a few years there before moving to Vancouver as a small child. She remembers always being proud of her Indigenous heritage, which led to teasing and conflict in her elementary school.
Years went by, and Alicia clung to her dream of becoming a nurse, but still hadn’t taken any steps. “I was just too scared,” she says. “I honestly didn’t think I was smart enough.” It wasn’t until 2017, when Alicia lost her job of 16 years, that she found the courage to try again.
This time, Alicia reached out to VCC’s Indigenous Education and Community Engagement department and got the help she needed to enroll in tuition-free Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs.
In less than one year, Alicia went from Basic math to earning top grades in pre-calculus as well as advanced chemistry and biology courses. In May 2018, she received the Shirley Joseph First Nations Achievement Award for academic progress, enthusiasm, and leadership.
Alicia now has one term left before she can apply to VCC’s practical nursing program. “Being here, I’ve gained so much confidence,” she says. “And I’ve proven to myself that I can be an ‘A’ student!”
Looking ahead, Alicia hopes to specialize in long-term or palliative care, and eventually earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN). “When people are in the hospital, they’re scared or angry,” says Alicia. “If I can help them get through that time in their life, I want to do that.”
Did you know? VCC offers priority access for Indigenous students in nursing and other health sciences programs, as a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action relating to post-secondary education and career training. Learn more by connecting with Indigenous Education and Community Engagement.