Shealyn Honan: Inspired by generations of nurses
November 26, 2021

At Georgian, we believe nurses are heroes. Because true heroes are defined by traits we can’t see: strong hearts, bright minds, and a whole lot of courage.
Over the next few months we’ll be sharing stories about #GCHeroes: people from Georgian’s nursing community – graduates, faculty and students – who are overcoming challenges and working hard every single day.

Today we’re introducing you to Shealyn.

She’s a Registered Nursing in the Emergency department at Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital. There’s so much she wants to do in her young nursing career. There’s different levels of acuity in the emergency department where she works so she wants to take more courses to work her way up to different areas where she would deal with patients with higher acuity. She likes learning about everything – especially labour and delivery and could see herself doing that in the future.

Shealyn is a graduate of the BScN collaborative program run by Georgian and York University, having completed two years of study at each institution.

What motivates you?

One would definitely be my patients – I want to do good by them and give them the care they deserve. Getting up every morning, I think about the fact that they’re someone’s child, parent or grandparent and I want them to be treated well. I want to provide the care they expect. And to treat them how I would expect, and want, my family members to be treated.

My family also motivates me. I still live at home with my parents and they’re really big supporters of me. I want to make them proud!

Who are your nursing heroes?

My family has a long history of nurses on my dad’s side. My grandma was a nurse, as well as my great-aunt and my great-grandmother. But it was my grandma who really inspired me. I spent a lot of time with her growing up and she shared how much she loved nursing. She’s talked to me about her experiences and how nursing was so different back then.

My grandma worked at St. Joseph’s in Toronto for most of her career as a charge nurse and was a palliative care nurse at the end of her career. The way she carries herself and how much she talks about her former patients and cared for them is inspiring. Even when she’s out walking somewhere, she likes to chat with people and she just has a nice way about her that I really look up to.

I began my nursing career during the pandemic so I’ve learned how resilient nurses are. Some of the nurses I’ve met in the ER have been there for 15 years and it was amazing to see how they adapted so quickly. And this is their new normal now – wearing masks, visors, taking care of COVID-19 patients and having to intubate some of them . . . it’s scary. But when they talk about everything I’m so inspired. It gives me chills every time I talk about it too. If I can work through a pandemic, I can do anything; that’s what I tell myself. It’s been difficult at times, especially during the big waves, but it’s been good and very eye opening. It was something I didn’t expect to experience in my nursing career at all.

Why did you decide to become a nurse?

Aside from being inspired by the stories about my grandma’s nursing career, I always liked talking to people and being in service to others, so nursing was a perfect fit. I knew going into high school that I wanted to align my courses so I could be a nurse. I loved math, all the sciences and thought anatomy was really cool. I also loved biology and thought the human body was really interesting. 

Nursing isn’t what I expected! I’m not sure exactly what I did expect but I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would. I knew I was going to love nursing and it was going to be my career, but the interactions with my patients have touched my life. Nursing exceeded my expectations and I didn’t expect to be this much in love with it. There’s some challenging days for sure, but the good days are really good. It makes everything I do feel meaningful.

A female wearing a purple nursing uniform holding up an IV bag

What challenges did you overcome to get where you are?

During my second year of the BSCN program I got really sick with pneumonia and I was in the hospital for about a month. I had a chest tube and everything. It was staphylococcus aureus, so was really difficult to get rid of. After the hospital I was at home on antibiotics and an IV for another month. I still wasn’t feeling 100 per cent. I missed several weeks of school.

The faculty in Owen Sound were amazing, especially Corrine Lalonde. They all worked with me to ensure I was able to complete all my mid-terms, assignments and finals in time so I could move on to the third year at York University without any delay with the rest of my classmates.

This meant I wasn’t held back a year just to finish one semester. They also allowed me to catch up with my clinical hours by letting me go with go with group of BScN students from the Barrie Campus who were doing their clinical over the summer. That was one of the biggest challenges to find somewhere I could catch up on those, so it was great to be able to have this experience.

What are your greatest achievements?

Definitely overcoming my sickness – that was a big hurdle and was a very stressful time. I wanted to focus on getting better for my health, but at the same time I wanted to finish the semester and get it done – that was really important to me as well.

And, then we had the pandemic, which happened near the end of my school year – at the end of my pre-graduation placement, a consolidation semester. That’s when the students weren’t allowed to practise in the hospital so we had to back online to finish that semester.

A smiling female standing against a white wall wearing a purple nursing uniform

Why did you choose Georgian for your studies?

I was contemplating going to the Barrie Campus since I liked that it had a bigger campus with more to offer. But I’m from a small town and I also liked that the Owen Sound Campus was smaller. I felt like the teaching would be more personable, and it would have a family-like atmosphere. I noticed that when I went to tour the campus. And I was totally right when I got sick and how everyone worked with me to finish my semester. That might not have happened at a larger school that would have just expected me to repeat my courses. I also liked that Owen Sound was a smaller town. It seemed like it would be easy to make friends. I didn’t know anyone in Owen Sound so I went in openminded to everything.

What makes Georgian a great place to learn?

The teachers were so accommodating and really worked with me. They would send me an email just asking how I was. That’s what really stood out in my mind. I can’t imagine that happening at a larger institution. I also liked the clinical lab we had – the simulation lab – it was really cool. Especially the birthing simulator. That was a great learning experience for me.

Why do you think the new BScN program is needed?

I think it’s a great opportunity for students in rural settings who can do all their four years in Owen Sound and don’t have to go to Toronto. It’s also good to have the continuity of learning in one place. I would have enjoyed doing my full four years at the Owen Sound Campus.

What was your placement experience like?

While I was at Georgian, I did three placements: at the Wiarton Hospital, Collingwood General and Marine Hospital (surgical floor) and the Owen Sound Hospital (general med-surg floor). While at York, I did my pre-grad placement at the Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital on the GI floor – that was a great experience, but also very humbling! I have a lot of respect for the nurses who I met there; you’re dealing with everything from constipation and obstructions to GI bleeds. Everyone was so nice and helpful and they had a good attitude about it!

I also did a placement at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto on the mental health floor that was also pretty cool. I was on the in-patient floor so helped with assessments and was able to sit in on sessions with the patient and psychologist. They also had their own emergency department where they would do evaluations and determine if someone needed to be admitted. They had different rooms for a range of patients from low- to high-security (those considered forensic because usually the police were involved). This was really beneficial for my learning. It was cool to see the different perspectives.

A female wearing a purple nursing uniform, blue gloves and safety eyewear

What would you say was one big take-away from your clinical experiences?

My big takeaway from my clinical experiences was that it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them. I had high expectations for myself and would get deflated if I answered a question wrong during clinical. But it was a great time for learning and I was able to research that topic further and then be able to apply it to my skills in person. The experience I gained during my clinicals at Georgian were a solid foundation that I’ll use throughout my nursing career.


More about Georgian’s nursing degree

Study close to home and graduate with the advantage of more industry connections, hands-on practise and one-on-one training with small class sizes taught by expert faculty who care.

  • Four-year degree
  • Barrie and Owen Sound campuses
  • Six clinical placements
  • Starts fall 2022

Know a health-care hero?

Do you have a story to share about a health-care hero making meaningful impacts in your community?

Share your stories, gratitude, photos, videos and more by using the hashtag #GCHeroes on social.

You should also check out last week’s #GCHeroes story about Lisette Verzijlenberg.