By Patty Hambler, Director, Student Affairs and Services
The events in the United States yesterday were shocking and frightening. As we all process what has happened, and continues to unfold, it is important to take care of ourselves. Reaching out to connect and for support is a positive step you can take for your mental wellbeing.
Connecting with a friend or loved one for a walk outside to discuss and debrief your thoughts and feelings is a healthy way to approach your self-care. Considering the positive steps you can take to speak out against racism and to protect the values you hold dear is another action you can take at this time. Taking a break from online news and social media to focus on your own thoughts and feelings is something you can do to remain strong and focused so you can invest the things that are important in your life like your studies, your work, and your relationships.
Everyone responds differently and whatever you are feeling is valid at this time. For some in our community, past experiences or current lived realities may mean that the events in the U.S. have a more devastating impact on our emotional wellbeing. Please remember that there are supports available:
- You are welcome to join other Douglas College students and one of the members of the Counselling team at Douglas for Virtual Calm, held as a weekly evening drop-in program starting January 14. You will learn how to calm the mind and practice an activity aimed at increasing your sense of calm and resilience.
- Douglas College Counsellors are available to connect if you find your worries are affecting your daily life or you are having challenges coping.
- Professional support is available 24/7 through Here2Talk, a free provincial service for all postsecondary students in the province. You can be referred to community supports and/or speak right away to a professional counsellor anytime of the day or night.
- The Crisis Lines are open 24/7 and allow you to connect with a trained volunteer responder about anything you are struggling with at this time.
Whatever you choose to do to take care of yourself at this time, remember that you are part of a community at Douglas College and we are all grappling with these challenges; even though we cannot connect in-person at this time, we can still support each other through difficult times.
By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations
Marissa Bruchmann’s Nursing degree was exactly what she needed to bridge the gap between her two passions: health care and the film industry.
“I got involved in the film industry right after high school,” says Marissa, who worked as an extra and background actor for film and TV while she attended Douglas. “It was mostly for fun and a way to make extra money. When my agent discovered I was studying to become a nurse, she told me there were a lot of opportunities for nurses in the film industry. The rest is history.”
Bound for Douglas College
Despite her love of film, Marissa always knew she wanted to be a nurse.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping people,” says Marissa. “When my grandma was in a care home, I saw how the nurses treated her and how they made a huge difference in my family’s understanding and ability to cope when health issues arose – especially around the time she passed away. I just really wanted to be that person for someone else’s family.”
Having experienced the importance of nurses in her own life, Marissa wanted to find a nursing program that would equip her with the critical skills she needed to succeed. So, she chose Douglas because of the close-knit environment and one on one time with instructors.
For Marissa, the smaller class sizes made a huge difference in her success.
“You have a more professional and closer relationship with your instructors than at a larger institution. I really like this aspect, because I wasn’t just a number in a big lecture hall. I got to know my peers and instructors – my future colleagues – on a daily basis.”
Through her preceptorship (the clinical practicum component of the program), Marissa honed her classroom skills in different hospitals, from Surrey Memorial Hospital’s surgical unit to Royal Columbian’s orthopedics ward.
She also took part in Fraser Health Authority’s Employed Student Nursing program, where soon-to-be nursing grads get paid to work while refining their skills in a clinical setting. She found herself back at Royal Columbian Hospital, where she discovered her love for emergency medicine.
“There’s a sense of teamwork and collaborative problem-solving between all levels of staff in the emergency department that I really enjoyed,” says Marissa. “I also liked how varied the work was – when you’re on a medical floor, the detective work has already been done, and you know their diagnosis right away. In emergency, everyone works together to figure out what is going on and what a patient’s symptoms could mean.”
Read more: how three Douglas alumni have had to pivot the way they work in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic
Ready for her close up
For Marissa, combining her passion for film and nursing was easy. With over five years of experience in the film industry, she was well-versed in the lingo, how to move around set, how to act around cast and crew and the different stages of production.
“I’ve been a baby wrangler, also known as a baby nurse,” Marissa says of her role on the show A Million Little Things. “When you have a baby on set and onscreen, for example if you’re filming a birthing scene or there is a baby who is a character, production has to abide by B.C. child labour laws and specific safety regulations. They need a qualified nurse who has skills in neonatal care, like me.”
But Marissa’s unique blend of expertise isn’t only being used behind the scenes. She’s played an on-screen nurse on shows like The Good Doctor, where her skills and knowledge add realism to emergency and operating room scenes.
“The film industry was always a dream I decided to pursue to see if it went anywhere,” Marissa says. “I’m grateful that I get to mix my two passions that are so drastically different but mesh perfectly.”
Doing what she loves
Despite the pandemic, Marissa has been busier than ever as she works on the frontlines in Surrey Memorial Hospital’s emergency department and in Royal Columbian Hospital’s maternity ward. Unable to work as a baby nurse due to increased safety precautions on sets, Marissa has also been working with a company that provides COVID-19 screening services for cast and crew in the film industry.
It sounds like a lot, but Marissa says the duality of her career is critical for her success.
“Working in both the hospital and in film means I don’t get burnt out,” says Marissa. “Working in the emergency and maternity wards are incredibly rewarding, but you’re constantly in high stress situations. By balancing it out with film, I make sure I’m still enjoying my work and not losing the passion that made me choose this career.
By Jay Solman, Student Affairs and Services
This holiday season is shaping up to be unlike any other. We all know one of the most important things we can do right now to protect ourselves, our family and our friends is to keep in-person gatherings and crowds to a minimum. Yet staying in touch is still important for our well-being. Here are some strategies you can try to stay well and stay connected, while still staying safe over the winter break.
Connect and communicate with compassion
Staying connected with others is important for mental health. Angela Katsamakis, one of our Douglas College counsellors, suggests thinking about the traditions you love to share with your family and friends, and finding elements you can experience in a virtual way – maybe even creating new traditions. For example:
- Have an ugly sweater party, or another friendly competition, over Zoom.
- Secret Santa gift exchange, virtual edition: Drop off your gifts and host a Zoom party to open them.
- Tired of Zoom? Go old school and write a letter or call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while.
- Walk through your neighbourhood and take pictures of the holiday lights and decorations. Then share your favourites with friends.
- Get into the holiday spirit by volunteering with a community organization or at a charity event. This year has been a hard year for many people. A festive atmosphere with other good people who are doing good work is a great antidote for loneliness.
The holiday season can be a great time to connect with friends and family, but it can also be a time when relationships are tested, especially with the added stress of the pandemic. Practise compassionate communication to help strengthen your relationships. If conflict arises, try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes before reacting, especially when discussing controversial topics. Be genuine and upfront about your needs and requests, and leave space for others to share their own challenges.
Expand your perspective
In addition to connecting with others, try seeking out information to expand your perspective and open your mind to new ways of understanding and thinking critically about current events.
The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley put out some great research-backed practices and resources for well-being when the coronavirus outbreak started. They can help you become more aware, engaged and compassionate, while practising self-care and looking out for other people in your community.
Take time every day to enjoy something about the season. It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of decorating, shopping, baking and gift wrapping. But are you enjoying any of it?
- Stop. Breathe. Savour one of those delicious holiday treats. Wrapping a gift can be a chore, or it can be a way to consider the joy it will bring to the person receiving it.
- For most people, the holidays mean too much sugar, fat, caffeine and alcohol, and not enough exercise or sleep. One of the best ways to counter stress is to pay attention to your body’s need for nutritious food, exercise and rest.
- If you get too stressed, take a laughter break and watch a comedy or funny holiday movie. Laughter is sometimes the best medicine, and watching other (fictional) families fumble their way through the holiday season can be an entertaining way to relieve stress.
- Talk or write about your thoughts and feelings. Putting your experiences into words can help you recognize and understand your emotions, increase your self-awareness, and shift your outlook. This article offers different possibilities to get you started. Gratitude journaling is another practice that has been shown to boost mental health and well-being.
- We are lucky to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. So pull out your raincoat and find ways to enjoy the smells of the forest. Spending time in the forest can boost your mood, improve your energy and provide a deep sense of calm and restoration. If you can social distance outdoors, get outside for some movement and explore what’s right in your own “backyard.” Notice what is growing, listen for bird calls, feel the different textures of tree bark.
Reach out for support
If you find yourself in need of support over the holidays, be sure to reach out. No issue is too small or too big – if you need to talk to someone, help is available any time.
- Here2Talk connects students with mental health supports whenever they need them. The program is free for all B.C. post-secondary students and provides confidential professional counselling and community referrals 24/7 via app, phone and web.
- The Crisis Centre provides distress phone lines and online chat services seven days a week between noon and 1am. Services are delivered by highly trained volunteers and paid responders who provide non-judgmental emotional support through risk assessment, collaborative safety planning and short-term follow-up by phone.
Today we celebrate a milestone, 50 years after welcoming our first students
By Maxwell Otte, Records and Information Management
Douglas College is 50 years old today.
Fifty years ago, at 10am on Nov. 19, 1970, Douglas College officially opened. The opening ceremony took place on Douglas Day, a holiday commemorating the first governor of British Columbia, Sir James Douglas.
When Douglas College opened it served eight school districts (Burnaby, Coquitlam, Delta, Langley, Maple Ridge, New Westminster, Richmond and Surrey) and had campuses in New Westminster, Richmond and Surrey. There were 1,200 full-time students, 729 part-time students and 95 faculty.
Official opening ceremony on Douglas Day, Nov. 19, 1970. Left to right: College Principal George Wootton, Minister of Education Donald Brothers, Premier W.A.C. Bennett, and Chairman of the Douglas College Council Jack Smedley, with plaque commemorating the opening.
Building a bright future
Due to construction at the New Westminster Campus, the opening ceremony was held at Massey Auditorium at New Westminster Secondary School. The auditorium was full of students and invited guests, and the program opened with a performance by the Douglas College Band. Premier W.A.C. Bennett was the principal speaker and declared the college open, capturing the egalitarian spirit of Douglas by saying, “Community colleges… Will raise the standard of living for everyone in B.C. They are neither technical schools, nor universities, but are all things to all people.”
Remarks were also delivered by the Minister of Education, Donald Brothers, College Principal, George Wootton, and Chairman of the Douglas College Council, Jack Smedley. Speaking to the new students, Smedley emphasized that the College was “totally committed to creating a climate for learning out of which may grow your much needed contribution to improve life’s standards in our time.”
Fifty years later, Douglas College continues to uphold Smedley’s commitment by providing students with educational experiences that challenge and enlighten, and open doors to lives of passion and purpose.
Official opening ceremony on Douglas Day, Nov. 19, 1970, at Massey Auditorium in New Westminster. Douglas College Council Chairman Jack Smedley giving speech.
These Psychiatric Nursing students created an outreach project that won a United Nations Association in Canada award
By Melissa Nilan, Marketing & Communications
When Psychiatric Nursing student Vanessa Reid came up with the idea to organize donations for Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in 2018, she never expected it to end up gaining the attention of the United Nations two year later.
Last month, the Homeless Outreach Project for Mental Health, affectionately nicknamed HOP, won the John Gibbard Memorial Award from the United Nations Association in Canada Vancouver branch (UNAC-Vancouver). The award is given out annually to a student or group of students committed to creating positive change locally or internationally.
“Being recognized with this award is a reminder to us that what we’re doing is noticed and that it’s important,” says Vanessa. “It has made me feel really motivated to continue promoting change for the homeless community. Despite COVID-19 and the state that the world is in, it’s still important to try to connect with others and give back where we can, in the safest way possible.”
The project collects donations of clothing, food and toiletries, as well as funds they use to purchase additional necessities; supplies are then distributed to homeless people in the Downtown Eastside. Since joining forces with Douglas College and the Coquitlam Rotary Club in 2019, they have increased their reach to homeless communities and shelters in the Tri-Cities and Fraser Valley, and have started hosting dinners.
“When we first started, we would reach out to friends and family to collect items. The response was overwhelming. We would get together at my house to make sandwiches and soup and prepare care packages. Then we’d set up outside a lower-income housing building, called Bill Hennessy Place after my grandfather, and hand out the food and care packages,” says Vanessa.
Inspiring future generations
Vanessa’s grandfather, Bill Hennessy, was a WWII veteran. Following the war, he was left partially paralyzed in one leg and had to walk with a cane; he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and struggled with addiction. He got help and managed to turn his life around, and then dedicated the rest of his life to helping others facing similar issues.
“He would go up and down the streets of Vancouver talking to the people who were homeless, getting them food, trying to find them shelter for the night. Back then, a lot of them were veterans too. He would take them to AA meetings and help out however he could. His desire to make real change is very inspirational,” says Vanessa.
His work was an inspiration to both his daughter and granddaughter; Vanessa’s mother became a psychiatric nurse, and through her and the stories about her grandfather, Vanessa followed in their footsteps.
“My grandpa used to take my mom along with him – that’s what motived her to go into psychiatric nursing and she motivated me. When I got into the psychiatric nursing program at Douglas, I told my classmates about my grandpa and it sparked the idea to do something similar in honour of him.”
Vanessa chose Douglas for her education because of the Psychiatric Nursing program’s reputation for excellence among its graduates.
Creating a legacy
Vanessa was joined in her venture by fellow psychiatric nursing students Wenli Huang, Sylvia Ma, Ruth Desterke, Jennifer McLeod, Kenna Balogh, Sarah Cribb, Tamara Bircher, Hailey Walsh, Sahar Salehi, Alaina Stathem, Yuta Bergeron, Heather Marquet, Zulma Garcia, Jenny Adams, Brenna Robert, Hannah Mankwald and Christine Clyne.
While Vanessa and the other original project members graduate this year, they already have plans in place to pass the reigns of the project on to junior classmates who joined them last year and are eager to continue the work.
“We’re mentoring four students to take over the leadership role. They’ll keep the same values of the project, about homelessness and mental health, trying to reduce that stigma and raise awareness, but we’re going to let them take over and have their own autonomy and continue to evolve the project.”
The success of the project has motivated Vanessa to keep doing more to help others; she plans to start a new project for homelessness and mental health in her professional career with more services and resources than what she was able to provide as a student.
By Maia Odegaard, Marketing and Communications
Did you know there’s an active volcano less than three and a half hours from Vancouver? Dr. Nathalie Vigouroux-Caillibot certainly does. Nathalie is a geologist who specializes in volcanology. And when she’s not teaching, she’s exploring one of Canada’s most overlooked – and potentially dangerous – natural hazards: volcanoes.
“When people think of Canada, they don’t think of active volcanoes, but it’s only been about 150 years since the last eruption, a volcano called Lava Fork in NW British Columbia. In geological terms, that’s less than a nanosecond,” says Nathalie, who teaches in the Geological Resources program at Douglas and is chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. “If it happened that recently, it could definitely happen again.”
Conducting explosive research
Currently, Nathalie is a part of a team of 34 researchers from seven universities in B.C. and Alberta, as well as federal scientists, studying geothermal activity at Mount Meager – roughly 160km north of Vancouver – as a possible renewable energy source for Canada. They also work with representatives from the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations to ensure survey sights are not on important ancestral sites, including ancestral burial areas.
The Federal Geological Survey project at Mount Meager was started in the 1970s, but investing in geothermal energy became a less desirable endeavour when the price of oil dropped in the following decades. With the current climate crisis, geothermal energy is of interest once again, so the project reopened and researchers conducted work from July–October 2019.
The hottest field trips
Nathalie and has also taken her students from Douglas to the research site to analyze the hot springs connected to the volcano, where they’ve collected data on the hot spring chemistry. The goal is to survey the volcano’s activity and potential as a source of renewable geothermal energy.
While hydroelectricity is relatively inexpensive in B.C., there is value in geothermal energy exploration – geothermal plants have smaller footprints than large hydroelectric dams, lower emissions over their lifespan and provide a more stable power source than wind or solar energy.
“We’re working to increase the understanding of Mount Meager’s geothermal system,” Nathalie says. “We want to determine where there’s hot water, how much there is, how it moves around underground and many more technical details that a company would want to know before investing in the project.”
A dangerous hobby
In addition to the potential for electricity production, Nathalie has more reasons for exploring Mount Meager. She also has a personal and professional interest in monitoring the volcano, including a working collaboration with SFU.
“It’s a big volcano, and it erupted around 2,400 years ago. The eruption sent particles of ash all the way to Alberta, so we know it was definitely a sizable eruption. If it wakes up at some point in the future, it may change the chemistry of the hot springs, including the temperature and the pH, but it could also create landslides or flooding. It’s important that we keep a close eye on Mount Meager.”
By Melissa Nilan, Marketing and Communications
For Prabhjot Sandhu, becoming an optician was a no-brainer. The career combines everything she loves: health care, fashion and providing excellent customer service.
“You’re helping someone find a frame that suits them, and you’re helping them see. I like that blend of artistry and science,” says Prabhjot.
Choosing Douglas for the Dispensing Opticianry (DOPT) program was also a no-brainer: The two-year program provided more hands-on opportunities in the field than programs at other schools.
Looking for options
The classroom learning of the Fall and Winter Semesters is interspersed with short on-campus practicums in at the College’s Vision Care Centre. During the Summer Semester, DOPT students arrange their own full-time practicums with businesses of interest to them.
Prabhjot did one practicum at an optical store, and one at an optometry clinic – where she was the only dispensing optician on staff.
“I did all the fittings myself, from start to finish. I really got a feel for what it was like as a dispensing optician in the real world. It was great for learning and building my confidence,” says Prabhjot.
A career in sight
Working in two very different environments helped Prabhjot decide which route she wanted to take after graduation.
“I wasn’t a fan of the clinical environment because it’s very focused on disease and pathology. I prefer retail because I love the interaction with clients and helping them find eyewear solutions.”
Now a licensed optician at the same optical store where she did her practicum, Prabhjot wants to one day open an optical shop with her sister – a fellow DOPT grad.
By Maia Odegaard, Marketing and Communications
During his time at Douglas, Mike Zacharias learned early on that a bad grade could actually be a good thing. In fact, doing poorly on a quiz in one of his first classes led him to meeting Sam Costa, his girlfriend, coworker and fellow graduate of the Hearing Instrument Practitioner diploma program.
“Our meeting was purely coincidental,” says Mike. “We’d both done poorly on our first quiz. I asked her if she’d like to study together and she said yes. Eventually studying together turned into becoming a couple. So just because you don’t do well on your first test, don’t give up, kids!”
Get involved, get experience
Not only did finding a study buddy improve their respective grades, but both Mike and Sam excelled in the HEAR program and found gigs in the industry before they even graduated. To build her resumé, Sam did testing for NexGen Hearing – a hearing health provider in B.C. – and Mike also performed hearing tests, but at an ENT practitioner’s office.
“The program prepared us really well for work in the hearing health field,” says Sam. “We learned all the components necessary to do a good job in the clinic for the clients. It was fun, interesting and made me excited to start work.”
Both Sam and Mike really enjoyed the challenge of their course work during the two-year diploma program, but they agreed what really made the program stand out (other than meeting one another) was being able to meet and interact with industry professionals. Particularly at one networking event organized by members of the Faculty of Science and Technology.
“Industry day was our most memorable experience at Douglas” says Mike. “It was really great to meet with employers and manufacturers just as we’re about to graduate, and ask them our questions about working in the industry.”
Using transferable skills
While they ended up in the same program – and currently work as Hearing Instrument Practitioners for the same company – Mike and Sam came to the HEAR program from very different backgrounds.
Sam had worked in the health care industry as a care aide at a long term care facility. She was drawn to the HEAR program at Douglas because she wanted to further her career helping people, and it stood out as one of the only Hearing Instrument Practitioner programs with hands-on learning opportunities and face-to-face instruction. Being from Pitt Meadows, she was also happy that going to Douglas meant staying close to home.
Mike on the other hand, travelled a little farther for school and a chance at a completely new career.
“The forest industry in Prince George, where I was working, had basically collapsed. I wanted to find a new career with stability,” says Mike. “I’ve always enjoyed interacting with people and I am an avid techy. The hearing industry is great for both those things.”
Right place, right time
Toward the end of their program, Sam and Mike attended a graduation dinner sponsored by Connect Hearing, where serendipity struck once again.
“During the course of the evening we chatted with the manager of human resources and the topic of where we’d like to work once we were certified came up,” says Mike. “Connect Hearing needed two full-time Registered Hearing Instrument Practitioners on the Sunshine Coast, and three days later we were offered the positions.”
Now, Mike and Sam have started their careers as Registered Hearing Instrument Practitioners on the Sunshine Coast, where they have been living and working for a year and a half. They’re enjoying their unique work at the clinics – Mike in Gibsons and Sam in Sechelt – so much so that they recently purchased a townhouse there.
“The lifestyle here is a little slower than the Lower Mainland, which is something we both appreciate. We’ve worked really hard and have been incredibly fortunate to end up where we are.”
The Student Ambassadors (SAs) are a select group of student leaders who help organize and run the recruitment events put on by the Future Students’ Office. As a Student Ambassador, you’ll have the opportunity to make a significant contribution to the College community while developing your interpersonal, professional and leadership skills. SAs play a key role in year-round College events, including information sessions, Counsellor’s Day and high school visits.
Hemnesh Ramwani is an international student studying International Supply Chain Management. He joined the Student Ambassador program during his second semester at Douglas, in Winter 2019.
By Hemnesh Ramwani, International Supply Chain Management
Two things drew me to becoming a Student Ambassador: Gaining leadership and communication skills; and recruiting and helping new students.
Since joining the program, my favourite part of being a Student Ambassador is interacting with future students during information sessions. I enjoy helping them by sharing my knowledge and experience. My second favourite aspect of being a Student Ambassador is the regular meetings with other SAs. Everyone is so supportive; we’re like a family and we always help each other no matter what the issue.
What I’ve gained through the program
Being a Student Ambassador has been immensely helpful for improving my communication and leadership skills. I can honestly see the difference from when I first started to now. In our SA meetings, we get to network with, and learn from, members of the Future Students’ Office, we play skill-building games or present on various topics to practice our public-speaking skills.
Being a Student Ambassador is something I can put on my resumé, and it will definitely help me in the future; as an International Supply Chain Management student, leadership and communication skills will be essential in my future management roles. And the networking aspect of being an SA will open doors for me in the working world.
Adapting to COVID-19
When the pandemic started, we were worried about what would happen to our role since our work is all done in-person. Fortunately, we were able to adapt; our meetings shifted to Zoom, campus tours were conducted virtually and information sessions continued to happen through video and other digital formats.
The online delivery has been very successful and we’re continuing our work as usual. Even with the transition to online work, we continue to feel connected to our team. We even received our branded swag – I didn’t expect it because we would normally pick it up in-person, but the staff went out of their way to mail it to us directly.
Why you should join the Student Ambassadors
If you are considering becoming a Student Ambassador, I definitely recommend it. Being an SA will improve your communication, leadership and people skills – three major skills everyone needs for a successful future career – and isn’t that why we’re in college?
Secondly, being a Student Ambassador is a lot of fun. The network of Ambassadors, staff and professionals is so supportive and encouraging. We really enjoy working together.
And lastly, as a bonus, SAs get priority registration for courses each semester. You get the courses you need at the times you want and with your first choice for instructor.