Illustration of a face mask, a stethoscope, flowers, bandages and surgical scissors.

Mount Royal nurses and midwives are addressing the ever-evolving needs of patients and society with unwavering strength and compassion.

Fall/Winter 2020 issue

Words by Peter Glenn


As the complexities of care grow along with the demands we place on the system, nursing requires a firm hand, a sharp mind and quick decision-making, all with a human touch.

Whether it’s helping save lives in the intensive care unit (ICU) and operating room; caring for mothers and children; providing life-saving immunizations and health advice; looking after seniors; or generally meeting everyday essential needs, nurses and midwives are the backbone of the health-care system.

They play a lead role in keeping us well and helping us heal. And we need more of them. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nine million more nurses and midwives are required if universal health coverage is to be achieved by 2030.

“There is a real need for nursing and midwifery education to prepare nurses and midwives to understand the complex and evolving nature of the health-care system and the importance of the broader determinants of health,” says Elizabeth Van Den Kerkhof, director of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Mount Royal University.

“Nurses are asked to care for a diverse patient population with diverse needs, to function as leaders regardless of their role, collaborate with other health professionals and be lifelong learners.”

Canada’s first two-year nursing diploma program enrolled 25 students in 1967. Nursing education at Mount Royal has kept pace with rapid changes in the decades ever since.

In 2007, the Bachelor of Nursing program was launched. It was Mount Royal’s first independent baccalaureate and now welcomes 215 eager students each fall — far fewer than apply. In 2011, recognizing an unfulfilled need, Mount Royal also launched its Bachelor of Midwifery, which is the only program of its kind in Alberta. Additionally, the School offers the Bridge to Canadian Nursing (BCN) and Advanced Studies in Critical Care Nursing (ACCN) programs.

“We are gifted with the ability to interact with people at critical moments in their lives, and adapt our knowledge and skills to affect change for better outcomes,” says Kerri Alderson, associate professor of nursing.

“Often, it is a conversation with a nurse or a midwife that enables people to recognize their own strengths, and collaborate to work out a solution to overcome the personal or systemic challenges they face.”

Illustration of a hand holding a cartoon heart.

World celebrates nurses and midwives

The British medical journal The Lancet put it simply: “Without nurses and midwives there would be no health care.”

To celebrate the work they do, and to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, the WHO designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. The WHO also released the landmark State of the World’s Nursing Report 2020 on World Health Day (April 6).

“Today, many nurses find themselves on the front line in the battle against COVID-19. This report is a stark reminder of the unique role they play, and a wake-up call to ensure they get the support they need to keep the world healthy,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, when releasing the report.

The WHO and partners, including the International Confederation of Midwives, the International Council of Nurses, Nursing Now and the United Nations Population Fund, are nearing the end of this year-long effort to celebrate the work of nurses and midwives, highlight the challenging conditions they face and advocate for increased investments in the workforce. The current pandemic, while putting a damper on many of those planned celebrations, has only made it more clear the vital services both provide.

The Government of Alberta’s budget woes are challenging the system to do more with less, but the province has continued with initiatives to provide more power to nurses and midwives. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners can now prescribe drugs at places like travel clinics, sexually transmitted infection centres and workplace health and safety clinics. Nurse practitioners were also given new permissions to set bone fractures, while midwives with additional training will be able to prescribe, dispense and administer a broader range of prescription drugs, insert IUDs and perform ultrasounds.

“I am a nurse and a midwife with 40 years experience in maternal-child health and have always believed that midwifery is a calling, not just a job,”

— Susan Jacoby, DNP
Associate professor of midwifery

Mount Royal University associate professor of midwifery Susan Jacoby spent a number of months working with the WHO while on sabbatical and helped the organization prepare for the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

Jacoby began working at the WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2019 on a project related to female genital mutilation, her area of research expertise. That work was delayed, however, so Jacoby was then seconded to work with Elizbeth Iro, WHO’s first chief nursing officer. As part of Iro’s team, Jacoby assisted with several projects, including the State of the World’s Nursing Report 2020.

“I am a nurse and a midwife with 40 years of experience in maternal-child health and have always believed that midwifery is a calling, not just a job,” Jacoby says.

“You have to be passionate about mothers and babies. They deserve nothing less.”

The COVID-19 crisis also meant a planned event to honour Mount Royal University’s former director of the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Paula Price, PhD, could not go ahead. Organizers of the day-long gathering had hoped to focus on ways nursing and midwifery can collaborate with other practitioners, and would have featured speakers whose work and legacy speak to their contributions in health care.

“Nurses and midwives are too busy trying to care for the people we serve to stop and consider that we are the reason this year was proclaimed the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife,” Jacoby says.

“We are working long hours on the front line and desperately trying to keep people from dying — even at risk to ourselves. I hope that at the end of the day, the world will have a greater appreciation for the work that nurses and midwives do to keep their communities well.”



As the COVID-19 crisis gripped the world, Mount Royal University nursing faculty and students responded immediately in a wide variety of ways. Here are just a few examples of how the pandemic touched their lives.



Stylized illustration of Joyce Woods.

Joyce Woods, PhD

Associate professor of nursing Joyce Woods, PhD, has made more than 3,500 masks to donate to more than 30 service agencies, essential workers and every family in her condo building.

“Because health promotion is so important to me I wanted to make a contribution that would help stop the spread of COVID-19,” Woods says, who was one of a number of faculty members who made personal protective equipment.

Woods wanted to “make a difference” for people who might not be in a position to purchase masks, so she got to work.

“This has been one of the most rewarding projects I have ever taken on. If my many years of nursing taught me anything, it has been to be kind and help one another whenever and wherever you can.”

Stylized illustration of Andrew Nguyen

Andrew Nguyen

A former president of the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University, recent nursing graduate Andrew Nguyen is now caring for COVID-19 patients in an intensive care unit (ICU).

“As an eager new registered nurse during the pandemic, I immersed myself in the front line response to COVID-19 in unconventional ways,” he says. Rather than sticking to one unit or setting, Nguyen helped at inpatient COVID-19 units, the ICU and with virus screenings. He also serves on an AHS regional Health Advisory Council.

“We continue to learn of new pathophysiological presentations and best practices. While not perfect, I can say that I have unwavering confidence in our Alberta health-care system.”

Stylized illustration of Susan Jacoby

Susan Jacoby

Mount Royal University associate professor of midwifery Susan Jacoby is one of several midwives who volunteered to staff the COVID-19 maternity unit at the Foothills Medical Centre in order to limit potential exposure to community midwives.

On May 5, the International Day of the Midwife, Jacoby assisted in the birth of baby Aria to Christine Jang. The midwife at the birth was Chandra Martini, an alumna of the MRU program and a former student of Jacoby’s.

“It was a marvelous way to celebrate,” Jacoby says. “Nurses and midwives comprise 50 per cent of global health-care providers, but this is the first time in the 72-year history of the World Health Organization that we have been celebrated for our contributions to health care.”

Stylized illustration of Kerri Alderson

Kerri Alderson

An associate professor in nursing at MRU and formerly a practising nurse in a variety of health-care settings, Kerri Alderson says that nurses effect change across the lifespan and have the ability to influence the trajectory of health at individual, community and population levels.

During COVID-19, Alderson volunteered with the Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society by calling seniors who were isolated while her husband and 13-year-old son helped out at the Calgary Food Bank.

“While this altruism is a desirable characteristic for a nurse or midwife, it is my role and responsibility to guide students’ awareness that the ability to assist patients also carries great responsibility.

“You have to know to care.”

Stylized illustration of Louie Marie Lupot

Louie Marie Lupot

Louie Marie Lupot worked as an obstetrics and gynecology and labour room nurse in a maternity hospital in her native Philippines before moving to Canada with her family as a landed immigrant in 2015.

Having graduated from MRU’s Bridge to Canadian Nursing program and now waiting for final approval to work as a registered nurse, Lupot is a casual health care aide and a casual licensed practical nurse in a mental health unit at a seniors care community.

“I have to isolate myself from my children when I get back from work,” she says of the challenges she has faced during the pandemic. “It made me very cautious in handling equipment in the workplace and I made sure that I don’t get complacent in a job that demands my utmost attention. This is what I signed up for.”

Stylized illustration of John Dominic

John Dominic

After graduating in 2009 from the University of Calicut in India, John Dominic worked as a registered nurse for four years before moving to Canada in 2014. The Bridge to Canadian Nursing program is opening new doors for him. He is working as a licensed practical nurse at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, and says the COVID-19 pandemic has put added pressure on health-care providers. His team and family have been helping him cope.

“The pandemic has given me a new perspective about the important work a lot of people do. I am sure we will get through this and be stronger when we get to the other side.”

Stylized illustration of Tammy Sherrow

Tammy Sherrow

During the pandemic, Tammy Sherrow, associate professor in nursing, and Karen Lasby, authors of Preemie Care: A Guide to Navigating the First Year with Your Premature Baby, supported parents whose newborns were either still in the neonatal intensive care unit or had recently been discharged home. The two used their Preemie Care website and social media accounts to share information and guidance. They also partnered with the Canadian Premature Babies Foundation and participated in live video broadcasts.

“It is all about keeping their baby healthy and safe,” Sherrow says of parents’ concerns.

“Once home, parents are not seeing other health-care professionals for routine appointments as regularly, so they have lots of questions about all things preemie, such as behaviour, feeding and development.”

Students in health-care related programs across Calgary put on their scrubs to volunteer during the pandemic:

  • They helped with screening and tracing at various agencies.
  • Students worked at the Kids Help Phone and volunteered at the Calgary Food Bank and the Kerby Centre.
  • A Facebook group was created called COVID-19 MRU Community Volunteers to publish volunteer placements around the city, which led to more than 100 students and faculty responding.
  • MRU Student Nursing Society president Shani Markus and her peers created another Facebook group called YYC COVID-19 Mental Health Promotion to act as a positive resource.
  • Siksika community health nurse and MRU alumnus Chris Sterling started a web series talking about COVID-19.
  • The MRU Student Nursing Society joined the Health-Care Students for Health-Care Workers, a group created by students at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine that pairs health-care workers who may need child care, pet care or other help with students willing to pitch in.


Students are the future

Markus says that the broad and varied role nurses play in health advocacy and leadership drew her to the profession.

“It is important to recognize the diversity of jobs in nursing. In reality, nurses can choose to work in the community, serving several populations. Nurses act as a backbone to our health-care systems, communities and education systems.”

Andrew Nguyen, former president of the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University and a recent graduate who is now caring for COVID-19 patients in the ICU, says he chose nursing “because it combines the science of medicine and the art of nursing care. This is important for me because I wanted to gain medical knowledge while providing direct front line care. I chose nursing because I wanted to work with patients and their families navigating very difficult health situations and circumstances.”

Nurses deserve to be celebrated for holidays missed with their families, facing the risk of infection every day, and many, many unclocked hours, he says.

Bridge to Canadian Nursing opens new doors

To meet the growing need for health-care workers and as Alberta battles the COVID-19 pandemic, the School of Nursing and Midwifery has expanded its Bridge to Canadian Nursing program, which provides a crucial step for nurses trained in other countries to save lives here.

The BCN program, which MRU began offering in 2006, is expanding to accept 120 students, starting with the applicant intake in October 2020. This is an increase of 40 students admitted annually. The expansion is in response to student demand that rose from 150 applicants in 2017 to 375 in 2019. The expanded cohort will start in 2021.

BCN students come from all over the world, including the Philippines, India and other Asian countries, as well as the U.K., U.S. and parts of the Caribbean.

BCN graduate Louie Marie Lupot spent five years as a nurse in her native Philippines before coming to Canada with her family in 2015. Her dream was to continue her career as a registered nurse and the BCN program is helping her achieve it.

“Nurses act as a backbone to our health-care systems, communities and education systems.”

— Shani Markus
Third-year student and president of the MRU Student Nursing Society

“Through this program, I am able to bridge my home country nursing experience to become a valuable contributor here in Canada,” Lupot says.

“MRU’s BCN program is the most holistic and comprehensive approach that translates into workplace knowledge and will get me up and running in no time.”

BCN courses are developed to meet CARNA requirements and provide internationally educated nurses (IEN) with the additional education they require to become licensed registered nurses in Alberta.

“Professional nurses who immigrate to Canada but are not able to obtain a licence are an untapped source of knowledge and skill,” says Robyn Stewart, assistant professor at MRU and BCN program co-ordinator, noting the relationship she has with her students is symbiotic.

“It is a pleasure and privilege to spend my time with IENs, learning together a little more about life and the nursing practice every day.”

Read more Summit

Passion, dedication and strength to care

Celebrating 50 years of nursing at Mount Royal


Donate today to support a transformational educational experience for our nursing students.

Your gift today helps build a stronger front line for tomorrow.