Jan. 17, 2022

Graduating during a pandemic gave nursing alumnus a fresh outlook on what it means to be a nurse

Alex Dang, BN’21 says his personal experience within the health-care system has also shaped his approach as an RN, mentor and advocate
Alex Dang, BN’21
Alex Dang, BN’21

Today is both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and International Mentoring Day, and to celebrate, we're featuring a mentor from our NurseMentor program who illustrates the value of mentoring and leadership. Mentoring is especially important for our students graduating this year who will begin their careers during a challenging time.

Mentor Alex Dang, BN’21 says his experience as a nursing student and new RN helped him recognize some of the qualities that make a good nurse, such as flexibility and resilience in the face of adversity.

A Calgary RN in hematology and internal medicine, Dang tells us why he enjoys working alongside students and new graduates and why he was inspired to share his particular experience with a student mentee.

“One of the reasons I decided to become a mentor is that I feel that I have a unique set of experiences being a student these past few years and graduating during the pandemic. During my time as a student in the nursing program, I have had the good fortune of having many diverse clinical experiences. This includes internal medicine, hematology, paediatrics as well as long-term care. Within these placements, I have had many positive experiences that have shaped the way I do my own clinical practice. Being a new graduate RN, I can still strongly relate to the experience of being a student.

“In addition, I have had a number of experiences where I was the patient receiving care. I have been admitted to hospitals as a patient several times during my time as a nursing student. These experiences have been highly influential in the way I speak and conduct care for patients and their families. It was my very first inpatient experience that inspired me to pursue nursing in the first place. As a result of all this, I feel very strongly about patient advocacy as an individual who has had first-hand experience. Nurses are the leaders of advocacy when it comes to speaking for our patients, and I feel that I embody and espouse the principles of leadership, compassion and communication that make successful nurse advocates.

“The unit I work on currently is also a medical teaching unit. This has granted me the opportunity to work alongside nursing students, new graduates and medical residents. On many occasions, I have had the pleasure of being a primary nurse to our own students. I find the experience of working alongside them to be immensely gratifying. To be able to guide and assist these students in their practice is a privilege.”

Throughout my time as a student, there have been instructors and nurses who have, in their own ways, changed me as a nurse and as a person. By working on this unit, and being a part of the mentoring program, I hope to make my own difference as well.

First-year nursing student Josh Yu

First-year nursing student Josh Yu

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been immensely challenging, both for nurses and students. The tumultuous experience of shuffling between online and in-person learning can be difficult at times. But I know that students will be able to look back upon this time with pride for all that they have overcome and accomplished. It is for these reasons I have become a mentor. The exchange of experiences between different groups is enriching for both mentors and mentees, and I would strongly encourage students and RNs to participate.”

First-year nursing student Josh Yu says having Alex as a mentor has been a valuable connection outside of school:

“I feel Alex has been a personable and relatable factor moving through the first term of nursing, especially with the pandemic making it harder to intermix with people. While I don't always have immediate needs to ask questions, it's reassuring to have someone there as an extra resource that isn't a teaching assistant or instructor. And he is fun as a friend to game with!

“The matching process also made it much easier for an introvert like me to connect with someone out of my own year's classes.”

NurseMentor, in its fifth year of programming, offers a valuable opportunity for undergraduate students to connect with practicing nurses for support and guidance. There are currently over 200 students and nurses who benefit from the program and we invite more to join. Undergraduate nursing students are invited to join NurseMentor to be paired with a practicing RN who can help inspire and encourage them.