Lisette Verzijlenberg: Former researcher won’t let labels define her
October 29, 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 Lisette, a lifelong learner and former researcher who is motivated by new discoveries. Lisette overcame learning challenges to obtain her masters. She’s now completing Georgian’s Collaborative BScN program with York University.

Tell us about yourself

I’m originally from the Netherlands and immigrated to Canada when I was nine. I was raised a bit further north of Barrie, in Sundridge.  

I was homeschooled up until university by my mother. I completed my Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Biology from Laurentian University. I took a short break of about eight months, and then completed my Masters of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Guelph. I graduated 2017.

I worked at my family’s veterinary hospital part-time while I was being homeschooled. This is where I first fell in love with science. I also worked there full-time during summers off between university terms, and also during the period between my BSc and MSc.

After completing my degrees, I worked in research as a lab technician studying Lyme disease (Magnotta Lyme Disease Research Lab). I then came to Barrie with my partner and started the BScN program.

What challenges did you overcome to get where you are? 

Not having a high school diploma was a factor. I ended up having to retake some high school courses from a recognized institution to qualify for my admission.  

Having been homeschooled I also was not aware of having a learning disability when I initially entered into university. This was discovered in my second year of my first degree. Since then I’ve figured out what my learning style is so that I can accomplish what I’ve set out to do.  

I’ve frequently been told I can’t do things, that I’m not the right fit for X, Y, or Z. I’ve been actively discouraged from setting goals that were deemed “unrealistic.” As a result, I’ve developed the mentality of “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” I would rather try and fail than put up barriers and tell myself I can’t.

I think my greatest achievement so far has been learning to overcome my learning disability and increasing my average by about 25 to 30 percent and not letting labels define me. I like looking back to see how far I’ve come.  

What motivates you? 

New discoveries! Initially I thought this meant research but what I actually enjoy most is discovering irregularities from the norm. This can be patient-based or medically-based. Nursing is great, because I’ll be working with a new puzzle every day. And even the puzzles that look the same won’t be because they’re happening in a different person.  

Why did you decide to become a nurse? 

I grew up surrounded by medicine, and have always had a keen interest in helping those around me. For me, nursing is one of those unique professions where you get to jump into someone else’s timeline, however brief your visit may be, and influence their lives positively during a period that could otherwise be quite traumatizing.

My love of medicine has been cultivated from when I was still very young, and it’s one of those topics that you could spend a lifetime studying and still only scratch the surface. I want to be a lifelong learner.

Lisette Verzijlenberg wearing scrubs, glasses as she ties on a medical mask
Lisette Verzijlenberg wearing scrubs, holding a stethoscope with a smile

What makes Georgian a great place to learn? 

I love the community atmosphere here. Before COVID, when I still had in-person classes, the class size helped people in my program to quickly become acquainted with one another and make new friends. I miss study sessions with my program pals. We’d book a study room together and just go to town on all the material. We mixed laughter with work.

The one-on-one time that our professors had for us made it easy to seek clarification on content, assignments, or learn about what our program had to offer like extra curriculars, clubs, volunteering, job opportunities, etc. 

I think the new BScN program is needed because when you create your academic family, and you learn together and from one another, it’s hard to have to leave that behind after just two years.

Lisette Verzijlenberg checking blood pressure on a simulator at the Barrie Campus, wearing her scrubs and stethoscope

What were your placements like?

The first was near the beginning of COVID, at which time the program initiated a telehealth-based placement connecting students with an elder volunteer, and the second was in hospital on a medical-surgical unit.

For the first experience, our patient interactions were typically phone based, so we quickly learned how to listen, improve communication, and articulate our questions in a succinct manner.

The in-hospital placement slowly introduced us to juggling multiple patients simultaneously and developing our nurse-client relationships, patient education techniques, how to collaborate effectively with other health professionals, and how to put our theory into practice.

How has the pandemic affected your view of nursing?

It has really highlighted the importance of the profession, and just how much nurses do and care for their patients.

I remember in one of my first classes we had talked about technology and its ever-increasing presence not just in life but in the medical field as well, and our teacher turning to us and saying that we’ll never have to worry about nurses being replaced by robots because so much of nursing revolves around caring, and being present with our patients, listening to concerns, and advocating.

And that very human aspect of the nursing profession can never be programmed into software to the same extent that we practise it as human beings.

Lisette is the recipient of the Dr. Homa Khonsari Memorial Nursing Award, for outstanding commitment, leadership and engagement in her program. She also received the Registered Nurses Foundation of Ontario (RNFOO) Undergraduate Scholarship Award for high academic standing as well as the Amanda Fournier Award presented to a female student who has a documented disability and demonstrated perseverance, commitment and humanity.


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 Feyi Tuyo.