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Why I became a nurse: Three public health nurses share on National Nursing Week

Kristen Klassen, (left) Melody Pan and Taryne Lepp are public health nurses for Trinity Western University’s Wellness Centre campus clinic. Submitted photo

Kristen Klassen from Prince George is part of a team of COVID-trained public health nurses serving a campus of 5,000 university students at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C.

She first moved from Prince George to Langley in 2006 to support her husband’s professional training as a counsellor. A graduate of UNBC with a bachelor of science in nursing, Klassen has been working in public health for over 15 years, in addition to specializing as a diabetes educator for 7 years.

In 2020, Klassen joined Trinity Western’s campus clinic, the Wellness Centre, as a public health nurse. At the time, the university was seeking to increase its campus health services in light of the ongoing pandemic.

“Working as a clinical nurse at the Wellness Centre this year has utilized all my nursing skills, as well as teaching me many new ones,” said Klassen. “I can use the full scope of my practice and knowledge and apply it in a comprehensive way that I’ve never experienced in nursing before.”

On any given day, Klassen might give immunizations, take bloodwork, give an injection, take a COVID swab, and provide assessments for a variety of other concerns.

Klassen said that she became a nurse for the opportunity to walk alongside people through difficult and vulnerable moments. “I value connecting with people on a deeper level and nursing opens that door. It’s a unique privilege.”

The mother of two teenage daughters has been married nearly 20 years, and says that she loves travelling, the outdoors and camping. She also enjoys all kinds of home DIY projects, “which recently includes a bathroom renovation.”

Altogether, there are more than 10 part-time and full-time nurses at TWU’s campus clinic, plus doctors and mental health counsellors.

Melody Pan is one of Klassen’s colleagues. With her master’s degree in nursing from TWU, Pan has worked many years for Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health authorities providing acute, community, and public health care.

Having a caring personality, Pan was drawn to helping professions. “Since I was little, I love to look after and serve others,” she said.

“I used to be a pharmacist before coming to Canada back in 1998,” she shared. “After I landed in Canada, I had to change my profession. My sister, who is a Registered Nurse, advised me to study nursing.” 2

Taryne Lepp, who works with both Pan and Klassen, joined TWU after working twelve years at Fraser Health Authority, including five years as a communicable disease specialist.

Born in Saskatoon, S.K. and raised in Burnaby, B.C., Lepp is a graduate of TWU’s School of Nursing, and she also holds a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University.

She is no stranger to public health emergencies.

In 2010, she spent four months helping to save Cholera patients in Haiti, through humanitarian aid work with Samaritan’s Purse. It was her time in Haiti that focused Lepp’s attention onto public health.

“Those months taught me fortitude, gave me experience at managing a pervasive disease, and showed me I could make incredibly difficult choices,” she said. “Haiti changed how I saw the world, how I saw myself and altered the trajectory of my career away from acute hospital care toward public health.”

Lepp first decided to become a nurse while attending summer camp the week prior to entering Grade 12. An encounter with the camp nurse inspired her.

Now, she sees nursing as her natural calling. “Becoming a nurse in the end felt kind of like breathing, something I did almost without thinking, and yet is foundational in my life.”

During this past year, Lepp has been reminded that “being a nurse is a profession you are never quite finished training for.”

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