Pandemic Underlines Importance Of Nurses
Wednesday, April 21st, 2021
Anna van der Giessen (top middle) with co-workers.
When Anna van der Giessen was growing up in Bezanson, Alberta and dreaming of being a nurse, she couldn’t have imagined pursuing her chosen profession during a pandemic.
When COVID-19 ended her Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) cross-country running and indoor track career prematurely and her final year of classroom studies was curtailed, the GPRC Bachelor of Science in Nursing student found opportunities through the challenges.
“If someone is having trouble understanding a concept, it’s so much easier to have a discussion in an actual classroom. I’m missing that for sure,” she says of the complexities of online learning. “But I always try to look at the positives and we’re living through a chapter of a history textbook right now,” says van der Giessen.
“Nurses play an integral role in fighting illnesses like COVID-19. I remember learning about global health, pandemics, and how nurses could be a part of tracking diseases in my second year of school,” she says. “It never crossed my mind that a pandemic would hit us just a year later. It's been a bit of a reality check in that way, but it’s been exciting that my field of study is so needed right now.”
Van der Giessen found employment in the summer of 2020 for a few weeks as a healthcare aide and, since the end of July, has worked as an undergrad nurse at the Alberta Health Services Swabbing Clinic in Grande Prairie.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with everyone there. It’s been a great experience. I’ve gotten lots of practice talking to clients and teaching them about different isolation requirements, protocols and health recommendations,” she says.
“Teaching is such an important part of the nurse’s role in any setting, so I’m especially thankful for this experience.”
Nursing is a tradition in van der Giessen’s family.
“Both of my grandmas were nurses and I grew up knowing I wanted to be one,” she says. “I was reading my Kindergarten graduation book a few weeks ago and even back then, I wanted to be a nurse when I grew up.”
A year into studying through the pandemic and related employment, van der Giessen has only become more assured of her career choice.
"The pandemic has just reinforced the importance of nurses to community health for me,” she says. “Nurses play a role in every step of a pandemic, whether it’s the tracking of it through testing and contact tracing, taking care of patients in the hospitals, providing valuable information to the public, or advocating for health.”
Van der Giessen was the GPRC 2019-2020 Female Athlete of the Year after placing fourth at the ACAC cross-country race and finishing seventh at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAA) cross-country national race in Fall 2019. The latter showing resulted in her being named a CCAA’s All-Canadian athlete.
“Although I’m sad that I didn’t get one more year as an athlete, I’m so thankful for the years I did get. GPRC is such a great place to be a student athlete. I had a wonderful and supportive team every year and we had so much fun. I’ll treasure those memories forever.”
Gratitude has been an important tool for thriving through the pandemic and van der Giessen is ready to see where her nursing career will take her.
“I’m thankful I have such great friends and family, that I can finish my degree and that I can get outside and run. I’m thankful that we live in such a great community,” she says. “My long-term goal is to find an area of nursing that I love. I do have an interest in several different aspects but I want to try a few out first and take some time to travel, as well, once the pandemic is over.”
In the meantime, van der Giessen is determined to take the skills and knowledge she’s learned during the pandemic to excel at whatever role calls her next.
To learn more about GPRC’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, and other health care career options, please visit GPRC.me/Nursing.