March 6, 2019
Nurse, instructor, student, social justice advocate
Bikram Sekhon is a registered nurse, sessional practice instructor and master's thesis student with UCalgary Nursing. Driven to support those who are most vulnerable and at-risk in the community, he strives to teach young nurses about the wide-ranging possibilities of a nursing career. His passion lies in mental health and addiction, especially where social justice can play a role in improved health-care delivery.
What motivates your work and research?
“One of the greatest aspects of registered nursing is how many different hats I can wear. Through my work, I wear two hats: as a clinical nurse and an academic nurse. I work in chronic disease management with the Primary Care Network currently, while also teaching at UCalgary as a sessional instructor for the N289 Community Health Practicum.
Most of my clinical career, I worked serving individuals experiencing homelessness or extreme poverty in both Calgary and Chestermere/Strathmore. Outreach nursing has always been my passion, in part because I don’t have to wear scrubs and be stuck in a hospital, and I have a lot of autonomy in my work.
I believe you simply cannot separate the physical and the mental aspects of health in an individual, and community nursing has allowed me to become a generalist.”
“Being the medical and mental health nurse in these community outreach positions made me feel like I am making a difference in the overall health of individuals in need of a health-care professional they can trust.”
What’s an unforgettable experience from your time at UCalgary Nursing?
“I believe the first face for this Top 50 was Derek Luk, an RN mentor of mine who was my instructor for N589. In Spring/Summer 2013, he chose me amongst his student leads to run an “Addictions 101” education campaign as our on-campus project, and it was a huge success.
I helped set up PA systems and create surveys ‘on the fly’ to gather data on the impact of the campaign. It was such an amazing experience as an undergraduate nursing student. I learned many skills in leadership and project management, while strengthening my passion for working with addiction clients.
Another instructor of mine, Aaron Li, who remained a mentor for me through my undergraduate studies and into my work as a junior instructor, pushed me to try and present posters on my addictions research at conferences in my final term. I was allowed to attend the UCalgary Undergraduate Research Symposium, and the Margaret Scott Wright Annual Nursing Research Day in 2013 as part of my clinical hours in my final focus. This cemented the importance of academic pursuits in the profession of nursing, and served as a launching pad for my graduate studies.
I also strive to be an instructor similar to my mentors, and hope to have a similar positive impact on my students. I have accomplished a lot in my graduate studies at UCalgary, and it started with an amazing undergraduate experience.”
What most excites you about the future of nursing or changes coming in the profession?
“The possibilities are truly limitless for RNs, if they start thinking about community program development, and health-care innovation. Looking forward, I believe most RNs will not be employed in hospitals, as highly skilled and experienced LPNs expand their scope in acute care settings. It excites me that RNs can fill positions as managers, program developers, and social justice advocates in the community.
Further, I know RNs can successfully create health-care services and programs as social entrepreneurs, with their knowledge of gaps in the system. If UCalgary undergraduate nursing students keep an open mind to those early community terms and throughout their education, they will see how profoundly they can impact health care for large groups of our community.”
“Why help one or two people at a time, when RNs can help hundreds, even thousands at a time? The possibilities for change are what excite me as an RN.”
Is there a nursing issue you are passionate about or would like to change?
"I have been worried about our community elders since my early days of nursing, more now as the baby-boomer population continues to grow and I have seen the inequities in health-care provision for seniors.
Demographics are one of the few pieces of data you can absolutely rely on as a program developer or social entrepreneur. We know our population is aging, so there is going to be a huge demand on our current health-care system with a concurrent reduction in health-care workers and funds available for essential seniors’ health programming.
I am passionate about developing seniors’ health care outside of long-term care facilities, bringing health care to them in their homes and communities. I mean beyond typical ‘home care’; working off of outreach models used for the homeless and poverty-stricken to promote full health and social well-being, preventing recurrent hospitalizations and co-morbid conditions.”
Your advice for aspiring nurses?
“The biggest piece of advice I can offer nursing students is this: allow yourself to be a student. You do not have to know everything. I have gone through numerous career changes and trajectories, all of which have helped me to become the nurse I am today.
Each time I was in a student role, I had to learn how to alleviate myself of professional pressures and free myself up to learn, be in the moment, and soak in knowledge. This will ultimately aid your personal and professional growth. Students these days face tremendous pressures and anxieties, and the nursing program can be very difficult at times. If nursing students can attain proper mental health support, practice self-care, and free themselves up to be students, they will succeed. Free yourself up to learn and be a novice student!”
All through 2019, we'll be highlighting 50 Faces of Nursing and profiling outstanding 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