Nov. 4, 2019

Donor champions nurses who focus on gerontology

50 Faces of Nursing: Marian Sayers

As she walks through the halls of The Lodge at Valley Ridge, Marian Sayers greets most everyone by name. After seven-and-a-half years living at the retirement residence, it makes sense she would know almost all her neighbours. But it also fits with who she is: warm, friendly and to use a stereotypical word for nurses, caring.

Sayers has been a nurse since 1951, the last 12 of which were spent in seniors’ care homes. “What triggered me to work in this area was when my mother lived in a residence,” she says now.  “After a visit, I just came away thinking ‘we can do better’ in terms of care.”

As a family who believes in giving back, Sayers and her husband, who passed away in 2012, decided to establish the Marian and Bill Sayers Scholarship in Gerontological Nursing to encourage interest and growth in graduate students.

“Gerontology – perhaps more than any other area of nursing – needs truly compassionate, dedicated nurses, but it is not an area of real appeal for a lot, especially the younger nurses just entering the profession,” says Sayers. “Bill knew that it was very important to me and so he made it happen.”

In 2014, then UCalgary Nursing student Chelsea Langdon (BN’15), who knew Sayers from The Lodge, nominated her for the Covenant Health Faculty of Nursing ASPIRE Award, which celebrates leadership, excellence and teamwork within the nursing community. Langdon cited Sayers’ mentorship, during her career, of the nursing students she encountered, and her compassionate manner with everyone she meets.

Sayers acknowledges she would not have been successful in her career without help from others.

“I went back to school, when I was 49, with 19-year-olds,” she laughs when talking about taking recertification classes after time off to raise her children.

“The director of Lambton College in Sarnia created a path for me to be licensed in Ontario. It wasn’t easy, but I did it and worked for three years in the best nursing home in Sarnia and then nine in Toronto. There were five of us, all ‘mature RNs’ who started around the same time. We worked well together and did make a difference - and gained the respect of the health care aides. So I saw what could happen with good staff. Unfortunately there is rarely enough funding for the staff needed to do a good job.”

Today she enjoys meeting the recipients of her scholarship and learning where they want to see gerontological nursing go in the future. 

“We started this scholarship because I wanted to see change soon.  It may be slower than I want, but change is happening.”

All through 2019, we'll be highlighting 50 Faces of Nursing and profiling nursing members in celebration of our 50th anniversary. If you know someone noteworthy (faculty, staff, alum, students, partners, etc.) who you would like us to feature, tell us more with this short online form. For more, visit nursing.ucalgary.ca/50