Jan. 23, 2019

She's the Faculty of Nursing's 'institutional memory extraordinaire'

50 Faces of Nursing: Brenda Toth, staff

As the manager of UCalgary Nursing’s Undergraduate Programs for more than a decade, and someone who has climbed the ranks since she joined the University of Calgary in the early 1980s, Brenda Toth has seen it all.

A yellow star dangling on her office wall sums it up nicely: “institutional memory extraordinaire” and her nomination for a 50 faces stated “she knows more about the nursing undergraduate program than anyone else.”

Since her beginnings in an administrative role in the Faculty of Graduate Studies, Toth has developed a broad range of institutional knowledge. She has advanced from administrative assistant, to budget officer, to student advisor, to director and now manager for 11 years. She joined the Faculty of Nursing in 1985, only to leave briefly to work in the Native Centre, after which she returned to nursing and stayed.

"I think that historical knowledge is very valuable. I pride myself on being familiar with all the rules and regulations and how they’ve evolved over time,” she says.

One evolution Toth has witnessed is a shift in the nursing curriculum from traditional, separate courses to an integrated, context-relevant curriculum based on current population health issues across the lifespan. “The Faculty of Nursing has always been on the move which I find exciting.”

The profession has become increasingly complex and scientific, Toth adds, requiring students to have more critical thinking skills to meet the challenges of nursing practice. She has witnessed significant advances in health care and research as well as technology growth, the opening of the Clinical Simulation Learning Centre and the increase in men joining and graduating from the nursing program.

Toth notes that when she first moved into student advising in 1999, the faculty had implemented a fully-online post-diploma program. “I believe that we were one of the first institutions in Canada to launch a program which was 100 percent web-based.”

In the early days of Toth’s career there were only 60 nursing students per year, a total of 240 over four years. In the 50th anniversary year of the nursing faculty, the undergraduate student population has ballooned to nearly four times the size.

Toth happily refers to herself “a lifer” at UCalgary. Always one to spearhead an after-work gathering, Toth values social time with coworkers as much as her institutional know-how. These days, as she contemplates retirement, she also reflects on her time with the Faculty of Nursing community.

“I have fond memories of all my years here. I have made very dear friends.”

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