Sept. 14, 2023

Flex Friday: Anya Evangelista

Flex Friday is brought to you by your VP Communications, Undergraduate Nursing Society to showcase the excellence of our undergraduate nursing students at UCalgary
girl with long brown hair, eyes closed
Anya Evangelista

Welcome to another Flex Friday feature of the 2023/24 academic year! This week, we are introducing Anya Evangelista, a third-year direct entry student entering Term 5 this fall. Anya shares her multiple experiences of growth in various professional achievements and the ways in which these have been integrated into her simultaneous personal growth. Meet Anya!

Can you please introduce yourself and your journey to nursing?
Anya shares her initial journey to nursing as a conflicted one – between nursing and teaching. “I ended up pursuing nursing as I found the opportunities…gave me the chance to get the best of both worlds.” She shares her eventual plans to become an instructor or professor in the nursing field to fulfill her desire to provide education to students. Anya also shares that her initial inspiration for beginning her nursing journey was her mother, a registered nurse and a preceptor, who consistently brought home stories of compassion throughout her career.

How do you think your nursing school experience has differed from your mother’s experience?
Anya notes a major difference in the education she has received is the larger emphasis on inclusivity and cultural sensitivity. “[My mom] can tell that [her preceptees] are really sensitive to that, and that they have the ability to connect to patients in a more personal way.”

Who are your biggest role models?
Anya mentions her mother as her biggest inspiration as she serves a vital role in both her profession and in her family. “My mom is the only medical [professional] in her family, so whenever there is a medical issue, or my grandparents are in the hospital…my mom is the one to tell them [Anya’s grandparents] what they [medical professionals interacting with Anya’s grandparents] mean in non-medical terms, so she’s very much this foundation for my family,” says Anya. She reflects on her mother’s ability to remain composed throughout various personal interactions with the health-care system, which has inspired Anya to take on a similar role within her family. “My grandma, she dreamed to be a nurse, but her family didn’t have the financial stability at the time, so she went into teaching…she was the type of person who, when she walked in the room, everyone’s faces would light up, so she would’ve been an amazing nurse…and part of me is also in nursing for her, and for that dream.”

nursing student in scrubs

Anya Evangelista is a third-year direct entry student entering Term 5

Has your relationship and experiences with your family inspired your nursing care?
Anya reflects on her interactions with residents in long-term care settings as interactions she would have with her own family and shares her attempts to provide nursing care with the dignity a loving family member would for that client.

Can you describe any work, or extracurricular experiences that you would like to share?
Anya has been working as a Health Care Aide (HCA) this past summer and as a pianist last summer at a retirement centre. She also says she had high school experience as a sports medicine trainee and experiences working with Student Wellness Services promoting the health and wellness of UCalgary students.

What is one main take away you had from your experience as an HCA?
“It was really different working as an HCA compared to working as a student nurse on the same unit,” Anya says, remarking on the increase in responsibility from a student to an employee role. “I definitely learned it was important to prioritize things.” Anya also shares her personal learning about interacting with clients.

“[It was also important to] keep in mind the preferences of the people you’re caring for, even if you’re caring for them in a biomedical sense, trying to be mindful about caring for other parts of their health…and [considering] what care can be provided that makes them the most comfortable.”

How did you get started as a pianist, a unique role to occupy as a nursing student?
Anya started playing the piano from a young age, both with formal lessons and playing on her own, and was inspired by watching her mother play. “It’s always been something I really enjoyed. I find it’s been a stress relief if I find myself overwhelmed with life…and it’s always been very freeing: I don’t have to think very much when I’m playing.”  She started playing the piano for the residents she interacted with in her term 4 clinical placement as it was a way “to intertwine what I’m good at into my communication to help me build relationships.” Anya specifically recalls a wholesome moment in which she was playing for a resident and “when I turned around, she was crying…she was telling me I reminded her so much of her mom, when she [the resident’s mother] was alive and played for her [the resident] as a little girl.” Anya reflects on the honour she felt in being a part of that moment, “where I’m able to make them feel a certain way, or connect with them through music.”

girl playing piano

Anya started playing the piano from a young age

How would you say your experience as a sports medicine trainer in high school invigorated your passion for nursing?
Anya’s sports medicine experience took place in her old Taekwondo studio, where she says her care was less medically focused and more of nurturing. “When I went into year two of nursing school, holistic health was a huge focus, and the fact that we take care of different parts of an individual, not just their physical health - was impactful It made me recall my experiences caring for young children in Taekwondo, where a lot of the times they just wanted some emotional comfort rather than an ice pack.” It connected to building therapeutic relationships in theory she recently learned.

As you have experience with both a pediatric and older adult population, do you have a preference for which population you want to work with in the future?
“I definitely want to experience what it’s like working with pediatrics in the hospital setting,” Anya answers. She has had many experiences with babysitting, being the oldest on both the maternal and paternal sides of her family, but would like to experience caring for a pediatric population in acute settings. However, while she has had experience in caring for older adults as a nursing student, she similarly looks forward to older adult acute care to make her final choice between the populations.

Can you walk me through your work with the Student Wellness Services (SWS)?
Prior to her involvement with the SWS, Anya says they envisioned a digital initiative to address physical and emotional health that supplemented their existing resources on mental health. To do this, Anya and her group created surveys for UCalgary students about their perspectives on the matter and provided this information to the SWS to inform the website’s design. “That experience was very scary for me at first because I was very shy at the start of the school year, so the thought of going out there and giving those surveys to people was very nerve-wracking: there was definitely some learning there.”

How would you say you’ve developed your ability and courage in approaching people?
“All throughout elementary and high school, I was super shy, and when I went into first year, it was half online, half in person, so that didn’t really help,” Anya recalls. This changed in her second year due to her strong support system in her clinical groups as they drew on her strengths and allowed her to push past her comfort zone. She specifically recalls the following Term 3 experience: “We had to lead a meeting with our community partner. It was very professional and she [Anya’s clinical instructor] asked me if I would try facilitating the meeting. I was so scared to mess it up, but we were always able to keep the conversation going, and because I had that support from my peers and from my instructor, I felt like I was capable. It ended up being very successful.” In her second semester of year 2, Anya was encouraged “to set high expectations for myself and work to meet them, and to not be afraid to get my hands dirty, as my instructor would say.” Anya would have consistent opportunities to work on her report giving and taking skills with several members of the facility staff, developing her ability to communicate concisely and strategically.

nursing students in long-term care

Anya with her clinical group in long-term care

Do you have any specific strategies to develop your confidence and speaking skills?
“For me, practicing skills or assessments beforehand and preparing for the situation really helps, as I like to be prepared for things as best as I can,” Anya explains. “So, making up relational interview assessments with your friends or searching  prompts online, just really getting that repetition of practice and slowing learning to be comfortable with it was helpful.”  

What has been your main strength and challenge with nursing school?
“I like to think a big strength of mine is determination. When I fail at something, I like to try my best to address it or the root of the problem, and more often than not, I try my best to see things for challenge, definitely that lack of confidence at first.”

Has nursing school been what you’ve expected?
“I had this very biomedical perspective of nursing, but I learned there’s all these other things that nurses do to care for their patients,” Anya observes. This has expanded her appreciation and inspiration for being a nurse herself, as there are a wide range of opportunities and manifestations of nursing care.

“I also thought it would be a lot more competitive, but I found everyone in nursing supports one another. It was more about celebrating that you made it here, and working to be the best nurse that you can.”

What is your favourite subject of the nursing program?
Her favourite experiences so far have come from the -89 [clinical] classes. “We get to put what we learned in theory or lab into practice, and I also like doing simulations”. She is excited to refocus on biological processes in her upcoming pathophysiology and pharmacology courses.

Have there been any experiences that you’ve held onto from your nursing journey so far?
Anya describes many of the experiences she has shared with her clinical group members as ones that she will hold on to for a long while. She talks about a significant moment in her clinical experience, which she describes as her first time “experiencing what I’m capable of doing. I remember I sat down with him [a new resident at Anya’s clinical placement] for 20, 25 minutes and just chatted about his life. And then he asked about my life and at the end he said that’s the most care he’s felt since he moved into the long-term care facility. I was so touched because it was such a simple thing to do and yet it really made a difference for him.” Anya also shares her experience with her primary assigned resident, who was further along his Dementia prognosis, and who happened to swallow a piece of small plastic during breakfast: “I noticed he was getting anxious, and scared of what to do, because everyone was surrounding him trying to get him to spit it out- their voices were raised, they were rushing around, and I noticed he was reaching his hands out, and he went to reach for my hands, which made me feel really touched.” From this experience, Anya reflects on the unique ways that clients may express their knowledge and gratitude of a nurse’s presence in their care.

girl in front of mountains

What advice would you give to incoming nursing students?
“Be courageous, take opportunities, develop your strengths, and address your weaknesses,” Anya says. Although she acknowledges the potential for feelings of insecurity, Anya recognizes the strong support systems within the nursing student population, and that there are no expectations for perfection. Anya also shares advice for her first year self: “don’t let your anxious thoughts overpower your excitement.”

What did you do for fun this summer?
Anya went to Vancouver for a week and saw the sights, hiked and ziplined. It was her first trip without her family, allowing her to experience being a leader for her friends, and to glimpse the city’s lifestyle as she is contemplating attending the University of British Columbia to potentially pursue a nurse practitioner degree. Anya also visited Los Angeles this summer, where she got to visit Disneyland and see family.

What is your favourite Disney movie?
The Little Mermaid, and I actually haven’t even seen the live action movie,” Anya exclaims. “I love Disney princess movies in general, and I can’t wait to watch the live Little Mermaid.”

Where is your favourite spot to study on campus?
“I love the tables in the Engineering building, by those big windows and if that gets too busy, I like the top floors of TFDL [Taylor Family Digital Library].”

Where is your favourite place to get food on campus?
“The pizza place in Mac Hall is really good and really cheap, and of course, the famous BakeChef and their viet subs.”

Do you have any final words?
“A quote that I feel like aligns with my nursing school advice: ‘If you have the courage to begin, you have the courage to succeed’ -David Viscott.”

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