Calgary nurse finds passion in humanitarian work

50 Faces of Nursing: Jennifer Hewitt, BN’04

Jennifer Hewitt is privileged to be able to travel the world, she says, to be there for people in disaster and conflict situations in need of urgent care. In April, she travelled to Mozambique to help contain a cholera outbreak, as part of an emergency response team from the Red Cross. Hundreds of Mozambicans had been killed by a cyclone that made landfall in the weeks before. Many more locals were displaced and their property destroyed. With a day’s notice, Hewitt boarded a plane and flew in to help.

In her role as a registered nurse in Calgary, Hewitt works in maternal newborn health, dividing her time between labour and delivery, low risk prenatal care, high risk antenatal community care and maternal fetal medicine. But she has a calling to work overseas.

“I get to know so many wonderful people in the local populations that we work with. Every day I am amazed at the resiliency of those who experience disasters and conflict,” she says. “It's very rewarding to experience being a part of a team and feeling like every day we have made a difference.”

Hewitt appreciates having employers who support her humanitarian work and who allow her to go away on these emergency missions. She encourages other employers to consider providing those same opportunities.

Jennifer Hewitt, UCalgary Nursing alumna

Jennifer Hewitt is a registered nurse in Calgary working in maternal newborn health.

What’s an unforgettable experience from your time at UCalgary Nursing?

“In my final year, while taking care of a gentleman who was palliative, I spent a lot of time with him and his family. After he passed away, his family told me how thankful they were that I seemed to actually care so much about him. That was a pivotal moment to me; that patients and families might remember the kind of care you give them -- forever.”

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

“Now that I have worked in many other countries, including both developing countries as well as Australia, I am very thankful for the position that nursing holds in Canada. I appreciate that it is a well-respected profession and that nurses are able to use their clinical judgment on a daily basis and can work with a lot of autonomy.”

What advice would you like to share with aspiring nurses?

“I never grew up thinking that I would be a nurse. Once I did decide to pursue nursing though, I was focused only on labour and delivery. This is where I began my career and I immediately loved it and made it my home."

“As my career progressed (as I am sure many others would agree with!), I found myself wondering if there could be something else out there that I was meant to do. Now that I go on several medical missions a year, I feel like I have truly found my passion and what I was meant to do.

“Don't be afraid to try new things (and specialties) until you really feel like you have found your niche!”

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

“Such a cliché nowadays but probably my phone! I can live in pretty limited conditions but love being able to contact home, look up references, get a translator or read a novel to escape.”

All through 2019, we have highlighted 50 Faces of Nursing and profiled nursing members in celebration of our 50th anniversary. For more, visit nursing.ucalgary.ca/50