Sarah Buck always knew she’d end up in the medical sciences, but her passion for nursing and community-based research came into her life unexpectedly. So did the news that she was one of the first recipients of a new national scholarship encouraging diversity and equity in health care.
Buck is a second-year nursing student at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) and one of 19 recipients of the national fund, which provides scholarships to nursing students and researchers. The Tylenol Fund to Advance Diversity in Nursing and Health Equity Research for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) is a result of a partnership between the Canadian Nurses Foundation (CNF) and Johnson & Johnson Inc, makers of Tylenol.
As an undergraduate, Buck received $3,000 toward her studies. She says the scholarship is motivating her to keep moving forward in her involvement with Hearts and Minds, a non-profit that designs and builds temporary, collapsible homeless shelters.
A nursing perspective to address homelessness
While Buck wasn’t required to be involved in research focused on equity in nursing and health care to receive funding at the baccalaureate level, she believes her role as lead researcher for the Kamloops-based Hearts and Minds non-profit is why she won the scholarship.
“The Hearts and Minds project is advancing diversity and equity in nursing,” Buck says. “The innovative way we are building temporary homeless shelters has never been done before. We can collapse them and move them to another location if necessary and we are basing our architectural design on traditional roundhouses. They are being made to build a community.”
Buck is excited at the potential of the Hearts and Minds project; she sees it as an opportunity to make a pioneering difference by helping people experiencing homelessness gain equitable access to health and shelter. She hopes the exposure gained through the scholarship will attract stakeholders and perhaps bolster funding for the project.
“There’s definitely more awareness of inequity in health and the value of life among minority groups and scholarships like this really help,” Buck says. “It gives students (who self-identify as a member of the BIPOC community) the opportunity to really focus on the determinants of health, which touches on every possible reason why one may not be able to achieve health and well-being opposed to another person.
“Recognizing, acknowledging and accepting these as fact is a real and tangible way for us to tackle health disparities. Scholarships that award those who are willing to contribute to change, sets a foundation for a more equitable future of health care.”
A new world view of nursing
Buck always wanted to become involved in health care. She felt rewarded by helping others, it was ingrained in her from a young age.
“I worked at soup kitchens with my family when I was younger,” Buck says. “It always made me feel great to see how I could make a real impact.”
However, Buck didn’t originally consider nursing as the career she would choose to change people’s lives for the better.
Originally, she studied biochemistry at Western University, but after learning about the nursing program at TRU, she applied.
“I didn’t really know much about nursing,” Buck says. “I had old world views of what nursing pertained not the new modernized version with all of the technology and the science behind it.”
Once she began her education at TRU, Buck’s view of nursing was forever changed.
Supporting excellence in nursing
“This place attracts some of the brightest students. I think the best part of the program here is the fact that it is so hands on and the simulations are second to none. The faculty here also really make a difference in student success and experience. They want you to learn and they are so personable. It’s so helpful to have that support.”
That faculty support spurred Buck to not only apply for the scholarship but also become involved in the Hearts and Minds project, working as lead researcher with a nursing perspective.
“As I move through this program, I have been gifted the opportunity to fully immerse myself in the world of nursing,” Buck says.
“I truly appreciate the noble work that is carried out every day and the scientific critical thinking and reasoning that takes place with each patient. What continues to motivate me to become a nurse are the limitless opportunities available. There is so much room to grow and expand the field and it is a profession that is desperately needed globally.”
With a Statistics Canada labour force survey from July 2022 indicating a 200 per cent increase in nursing jobs compared with five years ago, it is more imperative than ever that nursing students like Buck continue to be supported through their academic journey. The joint fund between CNF and Tylenol Canada does just that by investing in nursing excellence while building equity, diversity and inclusion within the nursing community and health care system, according to Christine R. Buckley, chief executive officer of the Canadian Nurses Foundation and a registered nurse herself.
In addition to the $3,000 that Buck received as an undergraduate, masters and PhD students accessed scholarships of $5,000 and $10,000 respectively.
For more information about the CNF scholarship program please visit cnf-fiic.ca/scholarships.