Jan. 12, 2024

Flex Friday: Mercy Ofiuvwo

Flex Friday is brought to you by your VP Communications, Undergraduate Nursing Society to showcase the excellence of our undergraduate nursing students at UCalgary
Mercy Ofiuvwo

Welcome to another Flex Friday feature of the 2023/24 academic year! This week, we are introducing Mercy Ofiuvwo, a third-year direct entry student who completed Term 5 in the fall. Mercy shares her involvement in mental health, research and the ways in which her story contributes to representation for all students. Meet Mercy!

Can you introduce yourself and the reasons why you chose nursing school?
“Initially, I wasn’t looking into nursing very much since my parents wanted me to go into it and I wanted to decide for myself. However, I’ve always been a people-oriented person; I’ve always been in service positions and I love taking care of people. I’ve also really been into biology and anatomy. As time has gone on, I’ve discovered nursing is really the encompassment [of all these domains].”

What is your current clinical placement?
“I’m on a mental health unit right now at Peter Lougheed Centre. It’s honestly really great, since I want to go into mental health once I graduate. Going into it, I was nervous since you can imagine something [a certain way] but it might not be how you imagined it to be. I’ve really enjoyed being able to build relationships with my patients and knowing the things they like and having that rapport for them to know who I am.”

What is your main takeaway from your time at this placement?
“Communication. Although we learned this a lot in previous terms, communication with patients is really important for assessments in mental health and in building relationships with your patients for them to trust you and open up to you.”

Can you describe your clinical experiences before this semester?
“In Term 3, we had a community placement at a church where we did an anxiety workshop. The anxiety workshop was super cool for me since I’m passionate about mental health so getting to learn about [anxiety] and how we can do teaching on that to make it presentable to the public was a really cool experience. My biggest takeaway from this was in building my confidence after coming from the COVID year where we didn’t have to speak up in meetings, offer ideas or raise our hands since it was online.

So being put into situations where everybody had to contribute did wonders for my confidence and being open to being wrong. It sucks to be wrong, but it builds resilience: it’s not that big of a deal to be wrong - it’s okay to have outlier ideas.

“Although there were lots of complaints of how the program is structured, I really liked Term 4. I like being slowly introduced to things since I’m a very cautious person. Term 4 was my first opportunity to work with patients and be in a clinical long-term care setting. I asked myself questions like, how do I make relationships, how do I maintain dignity and how do I show respect and balance our inter-dynamics where it might seem like I’m in a position of authority.”

Mercy stands with her Term 3 clinical group at their anxiety workshop.

Mercy with her Term 3 clinical group at their anxiety workshop which was part of their community placement.

Can you describe your extracurricular experiences?
“I am a co-student investigator with a previous Flex Friday feature [student], Tolu Adewole, and we've been working with our supervisor Michelle Cullen on verbal de-escalation since April. I haven’t been involved in research before this experience, so it’s cool to learn and I’m glad to be brought along for new opportunities. Even if it doesn’t go well, at least I’ve tried it and will have that experience.

“One of the big things on a mental health unit is verbal de-escalation since many of our patients can get agitated. A lot of the time it’s not them, it’s their trauma: it’s the symptoms of whatever disease process they have. So [verbal de-escalation is important] for our safety and for their safety since it’s not something they may intend to do.

“So far, I’ve mainly been involved in finding articles to make resources for our project’s proposal, consent forms and recruitment methods. As time goes on, it’ll get more into analyzing articles and collecting data.”

What got you interested in the research project?
“In Term 3, I mentioned to my clinical instructor, Michelle Cullen, who is a mental health nurse, that I am also passionate about mental health. During this time, I had the really cool opportunity to be the Mental Health and Wellness Ambassador for a resident at the University of Calgary to promote opportunities for students to either learn about mental health or direct them to resources to promote their mental health. Since it was such a great relationship Michelle and I had, we decided to stay in touch until Tolu came to Michelle with the idea of the verbal de-escalation project and Michelle invited me to collaborate on it.”

How is your current term going for you?
“I have heard from anyone and everyone that it’s so bad, your GPA is going [to go down] significantly and I cannot lie, that first week had lots of tears. I was very psyched out and overwhelmed because there’s definitely a large jump between Term 4 and 5 in terms of amount of content which took me a while to acclimate to. All that to say, I really enjoy the content, with the biology, anatomy and pathophysiology so [I am] setting realistic expectations of getting things done while having a lot to do, even if I may not be getting the same grades as I’m used to.”

What has been your greatest challenge during nursing school?
“My biggest challenge is imposter syndrome and comparison. Being around other students and hearing their stories, their passions, their reasons for getting into it and their knowledge bases makes me feel like I don’t belong here sometimes."

It’s been a challenge not to psych myself out, but I made it to this program for a reason, and I’ve made it this far for a reason, so reminding myself of the things I’m doing well has helped me in addressing that.

Mercy and her mom

Mercy with her mom who has been a huge support for her while in nursing school.

What has been your greatest strength during nursing school?
“My greatest strength is all the friends I’ve made through nursing school. I’m surrounded by a very supportive community of people who are willing to help work through an unexplained topic or encourage me. When I think of my OSCAR, I was having such a rough time so having my clinical group members tell me ‘you’re a smart girl’ was very encouraging.”

What has been your favourite subject in nursing school?
“As much as pathophysiology is interesting, I really like pharmacology since it’s much easier to pick up on the patterns and identify the key things to make connections between the condition and medication.”

What would you say has been your biggest takeaway?
“This is going to sound very cliché but my biggest takeaway is, that it’s okay to not be perfect."

Nursing school has taught me that you’ve got to be adaptable; every situation will not be ideal and perfect all the time so seeing the best in every situation is really important.

"Also, recognizing and rewarding myself for doing my best in these situations has been another takeaway.”

What would you say is your biggest success?
“Number one is being a part of the research team. Being a part of the nursing degree like I said wasn’t really something I wanted to do initially…I didn’t really know what exactly I wanted to do. Coming into this degree has been a slow-burn romance of me slowly falling in love with it, but I think being a part of something like research has shown me what kinds of opportunities I have because I’ve learned so much in this program. So participating in research allows me to develop my own skills and contribute to initiatives that are going to help others in protecting themselves.

Secondly, falling in love with my degree has been my biggest success. I definitely didn’t think I would become as passionate about nursing as I have in building relationships with my patients. I think my patients are all wonderful people and I want them all to succeed and do well so even having small conversations with them that can contribute to their wellbeing has been a great success of mine.”

What is your best memory since starting clinical?
“I love all my clinical groups, but my first clinical group in Term 3 has a special place in my heart. It was my first time meeting other students in nursing since we were all online and spread out in the first year. My clinical group members were all just good human beings and I made a lot of my long-term friends through that first nursing group. The fact that we were able to bond about both things that are related to nursing and things that are completely unrelated was so special.”

Which area or specialty would you like to work in, in the future?
“The two areas I’m currently most interested in are mental health, and obstetrics and gynecology.

I’m really passionate about women’s health and especially Black women’s health since I feel like there’s lots of disparities between black women’s health outcomes and their counterparts.

"I’m also passionate about providing mental health care for the populations in our units to provide them with the support that they need and address the confounding factors for housing or other challenges.”

How have you change since beginning of nursing school?
“The biggest thing for me is confidence. Coming into nursing, I was more timid, but I think nursing school forces you to be more self-assured. If you’re going to say your patient has XYZ, you want to say that with confidence and have the knowledge to back that up. I’ve definitely noticed this change is present in my personal life by me taking risks like applying to the Wellness Community Ambassador role since I’m very shy and not the kind to approach others first. So nursing has definitely given me the chance to step out of my comfort zone and try new things, offering my opinions and my expertise to different groups that could benefit from them.”

Do you have any advice for incoming students?
“The first thing is build a community around yourself. I would say my friends both within the nursing program and outside of it have been my biggest lifeline - especially in Term 5, having people to encourage you when you’re lacking motivation or cheering you on and reminding you that you belong and are able to do this.

Mercy with her Term 5 clinical group sitting at a table

Mercy and her Term 5 clinical group celebrate their last day of clinical at Captains Boil.

“Secondly, give yourself a break. This content is hard and this content is new, so you can’t expect yourself to know it all right away. Even if other people might understand more, you’re not any less than because we’ve all had different exposures to experiences so that shouldn’t impact your experiences of growth.”

Where are your favourite places to study on campus?
“I love studying on campus. The law library in Murray Fraser Hall is deathly silent, but I feel like such an academic weapon when I’m there. Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning and Hunter Student Commons are really pretty.”

What is your best method to study?
“Quizzing myself by doing lots of quizlets to see how much I’m actually retaining. I like to go through it a few times and repeat things back to myself so sometimes when I’m studying it’ll look like I’m talking to myself.”

What was the highlight of your week, this week?
“Passing my OSCARs has been the highlight thus far!”

What do you like to do for self -care?
“Sleeping is a big one. I will always endorse taking a nap if anyone asks. I also love to spend time with my friends: sometimes we like to go out, but even staying in, chatting, and just talking - being in their presence is really recharging for me, even if I lie down and my friends are doing their own things.”

Who has been the most influential role model for you?
“What a loaded question. I need to journal about this. Right now, I would say my older sister. She’s so smart and so tough. I’m very much someone who does not take up space when I first enter into a new environment while my sister is someone who knows she deserves to take up space and knows she’s smart and tough. She lights up every room she walks into and has such great ideas. So that’s something I want to emulate - that knowledge that I’m meant to be here.”

What is your favourite space at Mac Hall?
“Canadian Pizza is my obsession right now and Korean BBQ House. If anyone is reading this and has had them, they’ll already know!”

What did you do this past summer?
“I worked at a daycare; I got to be a daycare teacher. I got my level 1 certification. I have volunteered through my church in the children’s ministry since I was 10 and am currently the ‘Toddlers’ Teacher,’ so I teach all the children from 18 to 36 months. I love kids: I love hanging out with them, they’ll laugh at anything and they’ll cry at anything. After second year, I was having a tough time so I needed a bit of a break before third year: I wanted to do something I enjoyed.”

Has your relationship with religion influenced the nursing care that you provide?
“There’s definitely lots of things in Christianity like loving your neighbour as yourself and what’s more loving than taking care of them when they’re sick? So I can definitely see the overlap. However, the role that my relationship with religion plays is more as a source of comfort when things get hard, like before an exam.”

Do you have any final words that you would like to end on?
“When you first emailed me about the nomination, I was very confused about why I was nominated. I’m not as involved as I could be and I feel like I can go unnoticed. After talking to my friends, I’ve decided to do it for everyone who doesn't think they deserve to be highlighted. I respect everyone who is doing all their different endeavours and it’s interesting to see which life paths so many of our students have taken and the different things that fill everyone’s cup. However, just because the thing that fills someone else’s cup doesn’t fill yours, you still deserve to be highlighted and feel special. I think that also ties into the imposter syndrome within this program. You deserve to be here - you’re smart and you’re capable.”

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