Vancouver Island University nursing students — a shining example

5 Nursing students together side by side in red shirts
Vancouver Island University nursing students — from left to right, Kerynne, Rebecca, Paige, Sophia and Amanda — setting up a stem cell swabbing event on the Nanaimo campus in November.

In mid-September, Canadian Blood Services embarked on a wonderful semester-long collaboration with the Vancouver Island University (VIU) nursing program in Nanaimo, B.C. In partnership with five students and their professor, we offered a practicum placement for the senior level course “Promoting Health of Communities & Society.”  

From the outset, the students were engaged and excited to be part of Canada’s Lifeline. In creating their student learning plan, they set some detailed and lofty goals, all of which they managed to surpass. Here’s a taste of what they accomplished: 

  • Gave presentations to many classes and groups on campus, helping to educate their peers about the need for donors and the various ways everyone can get involved with Canadian Blood Services 
  • Took volunteer and stem cell training 
  • Staffed various recruitment booths and held a stem cell swabbing event on campus 
  • Organized three dates for group blood donations by the VIU community at our regular Nanaimo mobile events 
  • Reached out to educators and staff on campus for help in organizing their talks and events, truly engaging the community 
  • Volunteered at blood donation events 
  • Inspired peers, colleagues, family and friends through what they shared on social media 
  • Grew the VIU Partners for Life team by 54 members (a 33 per cent increase) and 58 donations (more than doubling the previous year’s donations)  
  • Created an Island Health Partners for Life team, so that they could engage their colleagues at local hospitals, managing to recruit 35 members and add 27 donations to the team tally 

As the semester ended, each student was asked to reflect on a key takeaway from this practicum with Canadian Blood Services.  

  • Sophia spoke about what a great reminder it was that blood and blood products are not made in a lab, but instead are only available if all of us get out and donate. As she says, “It takes each one of us in our communities to donate, motivate others to do the same and educate those in our communities about the ongoing need for blood products across Canada.” 
  • For Kerynne, Canadian Blood Services has always held a special place in her heart. She loved seeing, over the course of the practicum, the growth that she and her student colleagues were able to achieve with their two Partners for Life groups. She shared, “It showed me first-hand how the community can come together when in need and when asked. I will take all of this forward with me in my current and future practice.” 
  • Amanda shared that her practicum with us gave her new insight into all the work it takes to maintain Canada’s Lifeline, and “how important new and recurring donors truly are. As a nurse, I can educate people on the importance of becoming a donor.” 
  • Rebecca was struck by one main takeaway: “Sometimes the simplest interventions are the most effective, such as giving classroom presentations about the need for blood, basic eligibility criteria and how to sign up to donate. Some students later said that our talks to their classes were the final piece they needed to feel compelled to donate.”  
  • Paige was so pleased with one piece of learning in particular: “As one individual among many others, I can make a huge difference in our community. I will continue to encourage others to support our whole community of patients nationwide.” 

The students’ professor, Carla Tilley, was instrumental in building this strong sense of teamwork and engagement. As she reflected on the semester, she shared these thoughts: “Nurses should be in all places and spaces where health and healing happens. This is what primary care is all about, working in collaboration with clients, families and communities. Students often wonder if they make a difference when they work with communities. They can and they do.” 

On behalf of Canadian Blood Services, we thank these VIU students for all they accomplished in just one semester.

Patricia Willms, one of our community development managers, shared our gratitude with the group, saying “Thank you for amplifying the cause with such heart and dedication. Be proud of what you have achieved and the lasting effect your work will have. Know that what you have done will echo beyond this semester and that you have truly helped us to continue fulfilling our vision to help every patient, match every need and serve every Canadian.”