NursingWestern Health Sciences

Meet Rachel

Meet Rachel

The flexibility of Western's PhD program was one of the main selling points for Rachel.

Program: PhD (Health Promotion)

Degrees Held: BScN (McMaster), MScN (Western)

Post Grad School Plans: Currently, I am teaching full time as a professor of nursing at Lambton College and working casually as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner with my local Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centre (SA/DVTC) and casually in the ICU at Bluewater Health Community Hospital in Sarnia, Ontario. I'm extremely busy, but I have a supportive family and a desire to always blend theory, research and practice. It's important for me to be engaged in my field so that I can continue to learn and apply this knowledge to my research interests at Western.

My goals for the next two years are to enjoy the course work and gradually use the courses to build towards a proposal and complete the PhD program in a reasonable amount of time!

I am not entirely certain where I am headed in the future, but know that this program - the learning within the seminar courses from peers, the exceptional faculty on staff, and especially the support and encouragement from my supervisor (Marilyn Ford-Gilboe) is providing me with a solid foundation from which to move forward. I am not sure what the future will bring but I will continue working in the field of nursing as a practitioner and researcher in the area of violence prevention.

Why Western Nursing: Part of the decision was logistical. With my busy schedule, Western offers a flexible program that I can attend in person rather than online. I attempted online learning and found that it wasn't for me when I completed my post-graduate certificate in Critical Care. Western offers a specific style of learning that allows me to thrive: small group, self-directed/faculty-facilitated learning that through discussion creates a very supportive learning environment to delve into the material. This was an excellent link to my undergraduate preparation at McMaster University where problem-based learning was emphasized. I choose Western because the stream of Health Promotion allowed me to further my interests in ensuring healthier communities locally and internationally. Before I began I emailed some of the faculty whose research was the most compelling and found myself in the area of violence prevention; specifically looking at the health effects of intimate partner violence. Thankfully, Professor Marilyn-Ford Gilboe took a chance on me and I'm excited to work with her and her amazing research team throughout my PhD, and maybe after that also.

What inspired me to pursue an advanced degree: Throughout my undergraduate degree I was dedicated and driven to become the best Critical Care (ICU) nurse possible. After completing the New Graduate Initiative in Critical Care I found that without advances in the area of health promotion and a renewed focus on the social/political determinants of health, I would continue to see the same clients in ICU - too little, too late. My perspective shifted drastically after spending a summer working in South Africa and Swaziland at a small HIV-AIDS clinic and doing some community home-based care. These experiences led me to apply for the program to learn more. I'm passionate about life-long learning, social justice and health equity. This program was able to blend all of my passions and provide an excellent opportunity to further develop my nursing knowledge, skill and abilities to become a potential leader for the profession of nursing in the future!

Favourite Western memory: Successfully defending my master's thesis was my biggest accomplishment to date at Western. My entire family came to support me and met a lot of the faculty members/staff who were instrumental to my success in this program. In fact, the support and encouragement of both the faculty and peers in the program led me to want to continue on into the PhD program and I began officially in January 2013. I'm excited to begin courses again this fall. 

Best thing about being a student at Western: Initially, I was worried because Western seems large, but everyone is extremely friendly and helpful. The small seminar class sizes within the graduate program and expert faculty create a wonderful learning experience. I have loved participating as a research assistant (RA) to blend the theoretical learning with practical experience and found that this made my research courses come alive. In fact, I continued on from my RA work to further develop my master's thesis and am hoping to build on this work for the PhD dIssertation. 

Advice to students considering Western: My advice would be to allow your passion to drive your future education. Do what you love and love what you do!