Second career in nursing a privilege for young mom

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Kim Chartier, nursing grad poses in her nursing uniform

“When I started, my youngest was three, so that was a bit of a challenge,” said Kim Chartier, who graduated from Assiniboine College’s Practical Nursing program in 2018. 

When she started the program, she was 34-years-old with four kids at home.

Before enrolling, she worked part-time at McDonald’s and in the kitchen at a personal care home in Brandon. It was while working at the care home that she first thought about a career move.

“Observing the healthcare personnel, I thought, ‘Maybe I should try something different,’’ she said. “My favourite part was going up to the floors and interacting with the residents.” 

Her experience at the personal care home, seeing what could be, was part of the push to pursue a career in nursing. Another was the practicality.

“With four kids, you want to maximize your time, so why work 16 hours a day when you could work for eight and make the same amount.”

She saw the change as a short-term investment for long-term gain. And she made the leap with the full support of her family — her husband and parents were on board. Her sister, nine years her junior, even made a back-to-school care package with some of her favourite supplies and some items to help Kim overcome the technology gap she’d accrued after over a decade outside the classroom.

“The computer aspect of things was challenging — the technology I had to overcome,” she said. “For me to even print something off, I was like, ‘Well how do I do that?’”

Kim was dedicated though and pushed through the challenge, asking for help from faculty and other student support staff to her benefit.

She also notes the understanding from her instructors when long days in the classroom were out of her comfort zone.

“My teachers were great,” Kim said. “I felt like the kid who couldn’t sit still in class, and they were very supportive. They’d be like, ‘Go stand in the back, whatever you’ve got to do to get through it.’”

During her time at Assiniboine, Kim found another productive way to manage her stress and burn off the energy built up throughout days in class by playing soccer and futsal as part of the Assiniboine Cougars teams. 

“That was my mental health escape while I was going to college,” said Kim. “I tried out just on a complete whim and fit in very well with the girls. That was the highlight of my schooling, the sports.”

Being a student-athlete helped Kim focus throughout the week. She’d work toward soccer practices and games as a reward for long class and study hours.

“I needed soccer. And all of our bus trips on the weekends were study time. I just plugged in my headphones and ignored everybody. Five hours to study. Like, I wouldn’t get that at home!” 

Her effort on the soccer pitch was recognized in her final year when she received the Female Athlete of the Year award.

A focus for Kim throughout her schooling was setting an example for her four daughters.

I wanted to show them that they could do anything. Anything is possible.

Kim’s career has not followed any straight line. She graduated from high school with a specialized focus in auto mechanics, a career she pursued before she became a stay-at-home mom until her kids were school age. 

“Patients recognize me. Now they’re the right age to go from having me change [the] oil on their heavy-duty half-ton to being a patient,” she said. “I tell them, it’s all just systems and fluids!” 

Working full-time as a licensed nurse at the Assiniboine Centre in Brandon, she continues to learn daily. 

Now the biggest challenge; every day is something new. So, you think you’ve got it together and you go into work, and all of a sudden, ‘Bam’. And you’re like ‘well what do I do with that?’ And you have to figure it out.

Kim’s discovering she’s a lifelong learner and has her sights set on the future, when her girls are grown, doing missionary work as a nurse to explore a “completely different kind of nursing.” 

“I love opening my mind to things I’ve never heard of or even considered. Learning is fun, it’s fascinating,” said Kim. 

Kim credits much of her confidence in the path she’s on and her resolve through academic and career challenges to her faith in God. Her faith, she said, has always been a big part of her life, but it grew stronger as she was challenged through her training. 

Her path has taken her from auto mechanic to stay-at-home mom to part-time worker in food services to nursing. And she has always ridden her bicycle to and from these jobs. Now, as a nurse, she feels like she’s doing what she was meant to do.

It’s an immense privilege, caring for someone when they’re at their weakest. People don’t realize that that is a privilege. It’s not a burden.