Embracing lifelong learning for better outcomes

For some, knowing what career path they want to pursue comes easily, while for others, it’s a more varied journey. Ali Ryan has always wanted to be a nurse, and once she became one, she soon realized she also wanted to become a Nurse Practitioner (NP).

Ali wanted to increase her scope of practice and undertake a new challenge with a more in-depth education. She had explored a number of Registered Nurse (RN) positions, and realized she wanted a greater scope of practice so she could do more for her patients.

Ali was awarded the Florence and Lloyd Cooper Alberta Registered Nurses Educational Trust (ARNET) Scholarship for the excellence she’s shown in pursuing her Nurse Practitioner’s program. Education advancement and research is one of Calgary Health Foundation’s priority areas in enhancing healthcare for our community.

“I was so shocked. I was really grateful and honoured to have the support and to be recognized,” Ali said.

The scholarship allowed her to take more time off work so she could concentrate on her research and studies.

An NP collaborates with teams and physicians. They are registered nurses with graduate degrees and advanced knowledge and skills. They are trained to assess, diagnose, treat, order diagnostic tests, prescribe medications, make referrals to specialists and manage overall care.

She sees NPs as having a special role due to their experience as registered nurses. They bring medical knowledge and their nursing skills into one practice.

Ali’s research project focused on how to manage ureteral stent pain. Patients often get stents due to obstruction of the urinary tract by stones.

“There are many reasons why you might have a ureteral stent in place, but they’re quite uncomfortable. They sometimes result in patients coming back into Emergency, so I wanted to do a project on how to manage pain from a pharmaceutical perspective, as well as how to educate patients on pain management skills to avoid pain catastrophizing.”

After completing her research, she plans to put all the helpful information into a pamphlet that can be distributed in hospital to patients who receive this type of treatment.

Her nursing career began at Rockyview General Hospital, in Urology, followed by Internal Medicine. She has also worked in a community setting with Infectious Diseases as well as Women’s Health. While working in Internal Medicine, she found herself wanting to acquire the knowledge that many residents and physicians had. She met an NP in her first year as a nurse, and she loved the autonomy she had as well as how knowledgeable she was.

“It was at that moment, I knew I wanted to become an NP. This individual was a mentor to me, encouraging me to pursue further education.”

Ali has loved how diverse a career in nursing is, and that you can really carve out your own path, depending on what you’re interested in and who you want to work with. She’s found nursing has opened opportunities to travel as well as a myriad number of educational pursuits.

Her research has changed how she connects with patients to talk about pain. She tries to educate patients at the bedside about how pain can affect their day to day, explaining that many people don’t understand how pain effects their mood, daily living and relationships. While speaking with patients, she tries to give them better coping skills to manage their pain.

While her work can be emotionally and physically taxing, she finds what’s most rewarding is being able to help patients by educating them and supporting them after they’ve had to go through health complications.

“I’m still a nurse, but in a new capacity with a different scope.”

Ali completed her NP program in April of 2024 and looks forward to continuing to help patients navigate their journey, both while in hospital and returning to their normal lives.

Make a difference for nurses like Ali, with a donation to Calgary Health Foundation.

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