Meet Shelby Barr, B.S.N. '15, School of Nursing

Shelby Barr
"I feel fortunate to have had such a variety of experiences, from scrubbing in to operations, watching live births, and just being present with families in a very vulnerable time of their lives."

What has made your time at UBC the most memorable?

Being in such an intense, fast-paced program as UBC Nursing, I think the most memorable part has been the experiences and memories shared with my classmates. We spent a lot of time together, in lectures, at clinical, and studying – you really get to know one another. We’ve shared some unique experiences, good and bad, and it’s fun and therapeutic to laugh at your mistakes and share your highs and lows of nursing school together! I’ve made great friends through the program, and years from now I know I’ll still enjoy reminiscing together about nursing school memories.

Why did you choose Nursing?

I chose nursing because I feel that it is a great combination of science, critical thinking and technical skills as well as compassion, advocacy and caring for others. I studied biology in my previous undergraduate degree at UBC, and while I enjoyed it, I wanted to be able to apply this knowledge and use it in the context of promoting the well-being of others.

I realized that Nursing was the right career for me after personally witnessing the care that nurses provide, and after spending time volunteering. I loved how nurses spend a significant amount of time with the patients and families, and develop such a close rapport. I also chose Nursing because you can work anywhere in the world, and in so many different environments. It’s one of the few careers where there are so many options and types of jobs available, and I love that flexibility.

Tell me about your experience in Nursing. What have you learned that is most valuable?

My experience in Nursing has been exciting, challenging, and in general, an adventure. We started our clinical rotations just three weeks after beginning the program so I really was learning as I went. It was quite a steep learning curve to immediately be submersed into an acute care environment but you just keep going and soak in all the learning opportunities that come your way. I feel fortunate to have had such a variety of experiences, from scrubbing in to operations, watching live births, and just being present with families in a very vulnerable time of their lives.

In addition, after witnessing patients and families experience immense suffering, I feel that I’ve gained a new perspective. I am continually amazed at the strength and resilience that people display in these situations. It has taught me to never underestimate others, and to always be caring and compassionate towards anyone you encounter, as you never know what people are going through. Personally, nursing has taught me to really value and not take for granted the health and well-being of myself and loved ones.  

How are you applying the skills you learned through your studies at UBC?

Given our immediate entry into the clinical environment, I had the opportunity to apply the skills I learned during my studies almost immediately. Nursing is a continual learning process, and I am excited to begin working as a Registered Nurse (RN) and continue to build upon my skills.

How do you feel a degree in Nursing has benefitted you compared to a different field of study?

A degree in Nursing provides a great deal of theoretical and practical knowledge and skills that can readily be applied to the workplace. It combines many different subject areas such as pharmacology, anatomy and physiology and applies them to a career field that is diverse, expanding, and in-demand around the world. Other fields of study offer a great deal of theoretical knowledge but it is difficult to apply this to tangible work-place skills. I studied General Science at UBC previously, and while I enjoyed the coursework, I struggled to find a way to translate this into a career that I enjoyed. A degree in Nursing was the answer for me!

What advice would you give a student considering Nursing?

I would advise a student considering Nursing to volunteer in a hospital, in the community, or someplace where they can directly observe what nurses do. It is helpful to see first-hand what nursing entails, and then evaluate if that is what you are interested in. If so, I would say pursue it wholeheartedly and don’t let anyone or anything discourage you! Nursing school can be frustrating, and there are times where you may question whether you want to continue. Just remind yourself of the reasons why you chose to pursue nursing in the first place, vent your frustrations to your classmates, and keep going! I think it is helpful to know of the challenges ahead of time, prepare yourself, and then go for it.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I am continually inspired by the patients and families that I work with. During my final preceptorship in the Pediatric ICU at BC Children’s Hospital, I encountered many families who were experiencing inconceivable grief, pain, loss and tragedy. I found it incredibly inspiring to see the amount of strength and love that they approached these situations with. It is amazing just how resilient and brave people can be, and I feel that every patient and family teaches you something both professionally and personally.

What are your plans for the future--immediate? Long-term?

In the immediate future I plan to be working as a pediatric nurse. I would like to return to school for my master’s in nursing as a Nurse Practitioner within the next five years or so. In the long-term I can also see myself going into nursing education. I love that there are so many options and career pathways in Nursing!

How will you go on to make a difference in our world?

I think we all have the capacity to make a difference in the world, just by our everyday interactions with one another. I will strive to make a positive impact on the lives of every patient that I encounter, and be a source of compassion and comfort. People place a great deal of trust in nurses, and with that I will do my best to advocate for and empower people to achieve the best possible health outcomes.