Christine Atkinson, right, welcomed valedictorian Sara-Beth Mercier to the podium Friday afternoon during the Western Regional School of Nursing presentation of awards ceremony at Western Memorial Regional Hospital. — Star photo by Adam Harnum
CORNER BROOK Calling it a rough road might be an understatement to describe what Christine Atkinson had to go through to call herself a graduate of the Western Regional School of Nursing’s fast track program.
The Corner Brook resident and six others — Byron Bussey, Cherise Flynn, Phillip March, Sara-Beth Mercier (valedictorian), Erin Noseworthy and Cheryl Thorne — can now breathe a sigh of relief and finally call themselves nurses after an excruciating two years of study in the school’s bachelor of nursing (collaborative) program.
“It was a lot of all-nighters, a lot of Rockstar and Monster (energy) drinks. It has been a major challenge but it was worth it,” Atkinson said following Friday afternoon’s convocation ceremony at Western Memorial Regional Hospital.
As the old saying goes, “hard work pays off,” as Atkinson was the recipient of the WRIHA — Fast Track academic award for highest average in all required courses among her classmates. She also received the Pearson Education Canada Book award for excellence in the care of middle-aged and older adults. Determination from the beginning was key for Atkinson in achieving success.
“I wanted it,” Atkinson said.
With a previous degree in psychology, the 30-year-old understood before entering the program that it wouldn’t be easy but was willing to take the risk again.
“I had enough of school and it took me five years to have the nerve to go back ... so I was like, ‘Four years is too long, I’m going to do it in two,’” she said.
It was Atkinson’s mother who always aspired to be a nurse, and who was ultimately the person to influence her eventual choice to enroll in the fast track nursing program. After living and working in Thunder Bay, Ont. — following an attempt at attaining a master’s degree in psychology — Atkinson decided to return home to Corner Brook to work as a emergency service dispatcher for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC).
The decision to pursue a career in nursing boiled down to whether she wanted to continue to sit in front of a computer and phone for 12 hours a day for the rest of her life or change to nursing where she would be busy, on her feet and helping people.
It didn’t take long before she decided on the fast track program.
“I know that I can stay here, that’s the big thing,” she said.
Upon entering the program, Atkinson was unaware of who she would meet over the two years, but was quick to learn that over the rocky road she always had the others in her class lean on.
“We’ve cried together, we’ve laughed together, we’ve blown off steam together,” she said. “We’ve always vented together, we always stuck together because it was our group and we always supported one another no matter what.”
For those who are considering enrolling in the fast track program, Atkinson wants to send the message that you have to be sure that you are prepared to own up to the responsibility.
“You really have to just care for people and want to see them get better and want to see them help themselves,” she said.