Healthy common ground

What do a former Olympic rower and a pilot have in common? If they are Zoe Hoskins Light and Brent Stock, they are both students in the new After Degree Nursing Program at the University of Lethbridge.

Designed to increase opportunities for people interested in pursuing jobs in health care, the program is an accelerated course of study available to anyone who has previously earned a degree in any discipline or field of study. The 80-credit program is offered over six consecutive semesters and leads to a Bachelor of Nursing degree. Once complete, students have the option to write the Canadian Registered Nurse Examination to become Registered Nurses (RN).

The After Degree Nursing Program was a perfect fit for Zoe Hoskins Light.

"There is a growing shortage of Registered Nurses working in clinical, research, and teaching positions," says Jean Harrowing, assistant professor. "The After Degree program was created to address the urgent need for nurses in provincial, national, and global practice."

For Hoskins Light, the transition from athletics to nursing was a natural evolution, although the first degree she earned was far removed from anything related to health. Hoskins Light graduated from the School of Journalism at the University of Southern California in 2002. A profession in health care, however, always held appeal. Her father and brother are both physicians, and Hoskins Light developed an appreciation for the dynamics of the human body as an athlete. She attended USC on a rowing scholarship, and after graduation, went straight into training with the Canadian National Rowing Team leading up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. After taking a few prerequisite science courses, Hoskins Light enrolled in the After Degree program in 2009.

"My own interactions with health care got me interested in nursing," Hoskins Light says. "The dynamics of how the body works drew me to the profession, but I really like the human aspect of it – caring for people."

For Stock, the path to the program was slightly more practical. As the father of four young children, Stock was looking for a career that not only interested him, but also offered a high level of job security. Stock originally attended university in Utah, where he earned a Bachelor of Science Aviation Professional Pilot degree. The events of September 11, 2001 put his dream of flying for a living on hold indefinitely. Stock then moved his family to California to pursue a career in real estate. He worked in construction and owned a real estate investment company for several years, but after the market crash, he needed to switch gears again.

"I needed something that was recession proof," Stock says. "I moved my family to Canada with the intention of becoming a paramedic firefighter, but a friend told me about the After Degree program and I found it to be a perfect fit."

Hoskins Light and Stock are just two among a cohort of first-time nursing students in the program, and their diverse backgrounds are a microcosm of the balance of the students on the enrollment roster.

"Our students have degrees in sciences, humanities, arts and fine arts," says Harrowing. "They've worked in many different professions and disciplines, and bring a rich variety of experience to the program, as well as a certain level of maturity and wisdom."

Application deadline for the fall semester is May 1, 2010.