First Nursing PhD grad takes on teaching role
A childhood experience living in Jamaica left Kendra Rieger with a desire to pursue a career in nursing.
“My parents were community development workers in a small village. I was in my early school years and my mom worked in a hospital,” Rieger says. “Jamaica was like a developing nation at that point and it really impacted my life. I went into nursing because I wanted to make an impact in this world and improve the health not just of Canadians but of people in other countries.”
Rieger not only went on to pursue a career in nursing, she recently became the very first PhD graduate of the College of Nursing’s graduate program.
According Jo-Ann Sawatzky, Associate Dean, Graduate Programs in the College of Nursing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, prior to 2012 a PhD program in nursing was not offered at the University of Manitoba.
“Any masters prepared nurses who want to pursue a PhD to advance their career had to do their program within another faculty at the U of M or go elsewhere,” Sawatzky says. “The program raises our profile because there are more opportunities for PhD prepared nurses in Manitoba, which is a huge coup.”
Rieger says the fact that the program is located in Manitoba was a major factor in her decision to pursue this degree.
“I always wanted to go back to graduate studies but would have been unable to relocate at this point in my life,” she explains. “To have an opportunity right here and to have it in a research-intensive university with so many researchers on faculty was a wonderful opportunity.”
Being part of a new program, Rieger was able to offer suggestions about how the program developed.
“As an educator and someone who has an interest in curriculum development it was really positive for me to be part of that process,” she says.
Another positive aspect was the close proximity and access to other researchers.
“By being here on site I had regular contact with my advisor when I was working on my thesis research, but I was also able to get involved in a number of really important projects that I learned a lot from in addition to my thesis,” Rieger says.
A clinical nurse for 15 years before deciding to earn her doctorate, Rieger’s passion for the arts had an influence on her thesis.
“My paper-based thesis acted as a springboard into my academic career,” she says. “It included a primary research study where I looked at how nursing students learned through the arts in undergraduate nursing education and developed a grounded theory that elicited that process for them.”
Rieger learned that nursing students go through a creative process that can lead to transformative learning outcomes.
“For the students that did engage with the arts I really developed a deeper understanding of why and how the arts were powerful for them,” she says. “We are so often emotional about our nursing practice because there are so many difficult thing that we deal with and there are few places to process those emotions as nurses.”
Moving from her graduate student role, Rieger recently assumed an assistant professor tenure track position in the College of Nursing.
“What I love about the role is that it combines two of my loves: teaching and research,” she says. “The real focus for an assistant professor is to develop a focused program of research that contributes to the faculty and contributes new knowledge to improve the health of Canadians.”