June 4, 2021
Class of 2021: Troubled by diabetes’ toll, nurse returned to school
New Master of Nursing grad Sara Scott is the perfect example of what happens when experience, interest and a formal education converge. At the age of 41, she says returning to school was exactly how she discovered she can still make meaningful contributions to society despite being away from school for so long and prioritizing her family in her nursing career.
A registered nurse for 17 years, eight of those spent on Foothills Unit 37 (acute nephrology and renal transplant), Scott returned to university to focus on improving diabetes outcomes in the hope of eventually finding more balance in her nursing and her personal life.
'I saw diabetes literally take everything away from people limb by limb'
“I worked with people managing end stage renal disease who were often dealing with advanced diabetes” she says. “I wanted to find a way to help earlier on in the diabetes experience because at times I saw diabetes literally take everything away from people limb by limb. I wanted to help with tackling root causes, prevention and slowing progression rather than symptom management.”
Impact of Motherhood Matters
As a mother, Scott had also developed an interest in mentorship through
personal experience with Motherhood Matters, a group supporting young mothers prior to grad school. “I wasn’t expecting the benefits I received from the group members, who had similar life experiences to me, and allowing myself space to reflect on my life and my values,” she explains, adding that being part of the group sparked her desire to become a role model for other young mothers.
The final piece was learning more about Indigenous health in part through lunch and learn events at UCalgary Nursing. “I was surprised at how little I actually knew about colonization and the distress that has impacted, at the population health level, this group and how my own family was impacted,” says Scott, herself a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. “My supervisor, Dr. Ruth Swart, and I began to think about what a peer mentorship program aimed at Indigenous populations would look like and if it had been explored.”
And so Scott’s program of research was born — examining how to better support Indigenous people managing diabetes through social connections in the form of peer mentorship. She became a research assistant with Dr. Lindsay Crowshoe’s initiative Educating for Equity, and that team helped her find an accessible sample of individuals for her own project.
“Results from my research indicated a definite interest and a need for meaningful support for Indigenous people managing diabetes,” she says, “and the participants provided me with many ideas on how to start to develop the concept of Indigenous peer mentorship.”
Lifetime of experiences
Scott is excited about her new role as a clinical research nurse, working on exciting initiatives led by the researchers she connected with in her learning including (from UCalgary’s Cumming School of Medicine) Drs. David Campbell, Dana Olstad and Crowshoe. And she is grateful for her lifetime of experiences that have helped her reach this point.
“My experiences as a mother have helped my success: time management, stamina, patience, understanding the grey, respecting multiple perspectives and sitting with paradox,” she concludes. She encourages other mothers who have invested time and themselves into their families to also consider investing in their education and career, even if they think it is too late. “I have had many hardships to overcome as I started out as a single mother at 18. I never imagined I would make it to a graduate level program and thrive in it.
“I am really looking forward to getting graduation pictures taken for the very first time with my husband and kids who all worked hard to get me to this milestone as well.”