After 28 years as a nurse, Wendy Fenomeno never thought she’d be sitting in a classroom attending lectures again. But academic life is in her bones. She began her career at CAMH in 1986 as a registered practical nurse, returned to school to complete a registered nursing diploma and then finished a nursing degree in 2002.
As one of the recipients of the Barford Advanced Practice Nursing Scholarship, Wendy is now working towards a Masters Degree in Nursing at Ryerson University and light-heartedly jokes she is the oldest student in her class. “I have two children who are in university too so I guess it’s all in the family,” she laughs.
Trying to juggle school work and her job as a manager at CAMH is a balancing act but she appreciates the opportunity the scholarship provides. “I think it demonstrates that CAMH is committed to ongoing learning and supporting the development of its nurses, to excel at higher levels of education and expand our expertise,” says Wendy. Specializing in leadership, education and health policy, she hopes to bring that knowledge back to her job. “The most difficult thing is time management or lack of time actually, to do all the readings and get the assignments completed,” she says.
It’s not just financial support that comes with the scholarship but each winner is also matched with a mentor who provides education guidance and support. This was one of the reasons Wendy decided to apply for the scholarship and return to academic life. “I haven’t been in school for several years and knowing that there would be additional support like the mentorship as part of the program made me give it a second thought,” she says.
"The Barford Scholarships not only demonstrate the importance of supporting the professional development of our nurses at CAMH but they also highlight the importance of nursing in mental health," says Rani Srivastava, Chief of Nursing and Professional Practice. “All of the winners – both past and present – demonstrate a commitment to ongoing learning, mentoring, and applying their knowledge to improve the treatment and outcomes of our clients.”
Christine Bucago started out as a new graduate on the general psychiatry unit in 2010 but always intended to go back to school. “It’s given me an opportunity a lot sooner because I’ve always intended to go back for my masters,” she says. “In the end, I know it will make me a better nurse and perhaps allow me to move into a leadership position or get more involved with research.”
She is focusing her studies on clinical informatics – the management of health information – and with CAMH changing over to an electronic system to manage client information, she is eager to bring everything she learns in the classroom back to the job. Currently working on her masters at the University of Toronto, she works part-time. “CAMH has been so supportive and very flexible in terms of my work hours and the time I need to attend class and get my work done.”
Sheldon Hubert says that creating a work-life balance is one of the biggest challenges for him as he works at CAMH and pursues his masters degree online with Athabasca University. “It’s hard to organize a full-time career, while taking courses online, and trying to find time for family and friends, worrying about bills, commuting to work, trying to keep healthy and fit, and dealing with what else life throws at you.”
He also emphasizes the tremendous opportunity and support the scholarship provides, especially as he continues to pay off his student debt from earlier degrees. “I think this scholarship will help me with peace of mind in knowing that I do not have to worry about where the money is coming from after already having a mountain of debt from being a student (B.Sc.N, B. Ed. and Hons. B. A.) for so many years.”
Sara Ling is already seeing the benefits of going back to school. She received one of the inaugural Barford scholarships and is doing a research fellowship while pursuing her masters degree at the University of Toronto. She is looking forward to graduating in June and applying what she has learned to her work here at CAMH.
“It certainly has opened doors for me to get experience in areas I’m interested in and might not have had the chance to explore,” she says. “As an RN, I find going back to school is helping me expand my scope and capacity. I’m hoping to be an advanced practice nurse and I know I will bring back new skills and a new way of looking at things when I get back on the unit.”
Celebrating nursing excellence at a luncheon for the Barford Scholarships.
The Barford Family has created, through a generous investment, the “Barford Advanced Practice Nursing Scholarship” for CAMH Registered Nurses to obtain a Masters Degree in Nursing or a Masters Degree in Health Administration. As the 2013 recipients of the Barford Advanced Nursing Scholarships, Wendy, Christine and Sheldon are part of the 23 nursing graduates who will be supported in their pursuit of a masters degree over 10 years.