Aug. 14, 2023

Arctic flight nurse and UCalgary Nursing student forge strong bond through NurseMentor

UCalgary nursing alumna Jen Isaac, BN'15, and second-year student Britanie Thomas provide insight into their unique and mutually enriching mentorship experience
Jen Isaac, BN'15

UCalgary Nursing’s NurseMentor program is not just for the youngest, most inexperienced university student-mentee nor for the most seasoned registered nurse-mentor. Each year, the NurseMentor team welcomes first-timers together with those who have been with the program since its pilot in 2017 and hears more stories of the benefits of mentorship from all participants

Meet Britanie Thomas, mentee and January 2023 UCalgary degree-holder nursing student and mentor Jen Isaac, currently an arctic flight nurse, living half-time in Nunavut/NWT. The two were matched shortly after Britanie attended the January Meet and Mingle event where mentees, mentors and potential mentees and mentors were invited to hear more about the program.

I joined NurseMentor to gain support and guidance on how to navigate topics such as effective study skills for nursing school, guidance on how to successfully practice for clinical skills and general support to encourage me throughout the program,” says Thomas today.

I expected my mentor to provide insight into the nursing program and be able to guide me on how to overcome obstacles.” And that’s exactly what she got from Isaac.

Jen is very supportive; she listens to my experience in the nursing program and provides me with genuine guidance,” says Thomas. “She has been able to direct me to appropriate resources and educate me on strategies that have worked for her in the past.

Thomas is Isaac’s third mentee and the one she has felt most connected to. We have a lot of things in common personality wise and we find time to connect and have conversations about school/life/work,” says Isaac, admitting, however, that it can be challenging to find the time to come together. “When I'm up north, I'm on call 24/7 for two weeks and I never know what my schedule will look like. I've been lucky that each time Britanie and I set up a time to chat over Zoom, I've been available.

“What works the best for us, instead of having scheduled times to meet, is checking in with each other over text or email intermittently,” she continues, “and if our schedules align and we feel like we need to catch up over video, we will Zoom.”

Britanie Thomas (right) chats with mentor at the NurseMentor Meet and Mingle

This can be a big obstacle with busy students and perhaps busier nurses and pairs must adapt to ever-changing schedules. Isaac gets it. In 2018, she started working as a sessional lab/clinical instructor at UCalgary and loved it. She also saw the student side and how hard it can be to find time to do anything but schoolwork.

“Finding times to connect in person with your mentee/mentor was near impossible, and almost as difficult electronically, mostly due to the constraints of school.” Yet Isaac remains committed to the program, remarking that it can be a very reciprocal relationship. “There were times where our roles were fluid and Britanie became a mentor to me.”

Most of all, Isaac takes joy in being able to connect with students now that she is no longer in the classroom.

“I highly recommend becoming a mentor in the program, as both an alumna and a working RN. Your experiences and anecdotes are invaluable. You can provide support and encouragement in those moments of uncertainty and with the challenge of putting theory into practice. I wish this program was available when I was in the nursing program; it would have positively impacted my university experience.

Thomas also recommends the program for nursing student mentees. Given Isaac’s varied experience in her short eight years in practice - including working in Qatar as well as the UK, in rural settings, palliative care and med/surg, with the majority of her experience being in emergency, Thomas benefits from all of these areas.

Jen has already helped me to overcome obstacles I have faced throughout the program so far. She even provided me with awesome opportunities such as shadowing a nurse, which allowed me to gain valuable insights that cannot be taught through a textbook. These experiences have played a major part in my success within the program and my determination to succeed in upcoming terms.”

Isaac and Thomas will continue their partnership into the 2023/2024 academic year. 

UCalgary Nursing undegraduate students and nursing alumni are invited to join NurseMentor and to experience the many benefits of mentoring. Click below to learn more or to join now.