Jan. 29, 2019

Associate professor recognized nationally for her expertise in nursing and gerontology

50 Faces of Nursing: Sandra Hirst, faculty

Dr. Sandra P. Hirst, PhD, GNC(C), is an associate professor with the Faculty of Nursing, UCalgary. She began her teaching career at UCalgary as a sessional instructor in the summer of 1980.

Hirst is recognized nationally for her expertise in nursing and gerontology. Much of her research focuses on abuse of older adults and their experiences in long-term care. She has held many leadership roles including as director of the Brenda Strafford Centre for Excellence in Gerontological Nursing from 2008 to 2014. She received the Jeanne Mance Award from the Canadian Nurses Association in 2012. 

What motivates your work and research?

“The work I do, one word: nursing. It drives my teaching, research and service. I do acknowledge that I am biased towards the nursing needs of older adults. However, the outcome of nursing is quality of care and life for those that we have the privilege of caring for in our practice.”

What’s an unforgettable experience from your time at UCalgary Nursing?

“In one of my earliest clinical teaching days, an older patient said to a first-year student, ‘It's nice when you hold my hand.’ It beautifully reminded me of the potential quality of our interactions with our patients. It held, too, the promise of hope for the next generation of registered nurses, as the student sat at the bedside holding the hand of her patient. Both were smiling.”

What most excites you about the future of nursing or changes coming in the profession?

“Conversations about an expanded scope of practice for registered nurses are occurring. This challenges us as clinicians, researchers and as educators.”

Is there a nursing issue you are passionate about or would like to change?

“Ageism that exists still within the nursing profession — and this is indeed regrettable.”

Your advice for aspiring nurses?

“Catch your breath, sigh, and know that when you feel overwhelmed the registered nursing profession is a community. Colleagues are there to share your stories with you and to provide support.”

A supportive colleague

In her nomination of Hirst, Cynthia Mannion, associate professor with UCalgary Nursing, describes her as “a wonderful colleague, always helping out.” She offers sage advice and is always willing to pitch in, Mannion adds. Hirst has also won many prestigious awards over the years, and earned national recognition for her expertise in nursing and gerontology.

All through 2019, we'll be highlighting 50 Faces of Nursing and profiling nursing members in celebration of our 50th anniversary. If you know someone noteworthy (faculty, staff, alum, students, partners, etc.) who you would like us to feature, tell us more with this short online form. For more, visit nursing.ucalgary.ca/50