In May 2017, Colby Heynen drove up the highway to Whitehorse from Southern Alberta.

He and his girlfriend, Karin Wall, from Coaldale, Alberta will be renting an apartment here in Whitehorse and moving in the first of June.

Colby has been back in Whitehorse for two years, working at Whitehorse General Hospital as a nurse. He is fortunate to already have a full-time term position on the surgical ward.

Karin still had to finish her studies down south. Now that she has her Bachelor of Education, she will be looking for an elementary school teaching job. Colby met Karin at the University of Lethbridge (U of L), where he had gone to further his education after graduating from Porter Creek Secondary School.

In 2015, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. To become a Registered Nurse ( RN) he did the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), in Calgary.

He had to do it twice to pass.

“The U of L Nursing program had known four years in advance that we were switching to NCLEX (new exam) from the CRNE (old exam), but did not change the curriculum significantly to reflect this exam switch,” Colby explains. “As a result, many budding nurses had great difficulty with this test – including me. After my first failed attempt I knew what to expect, so by my second try I was prepared.”

He describes the testing centre: “It is a semi-circle shaped room. Writing the test in a cubicle, you are monitored by cameras and microphones. This makes cheating impossible.”

Colby was able to do his clinical preceptorship at Whitehorse General Hospital. A clinical preceptorship is a practicum where you work with a preceptor, which is a nurse who teaches you. And after he successfully finished the program Colby was hired as a casual nurse.

You might have met Colby on the east or west units of the hospital: the surgical and medical wards. I asked a friend who was recently hospitalized, if she had met him. And, yes, she remembers Colby. She said, “He’s a good nurse! He was very easy going, and one day when I happened to be crying, feeling awful, he came into my room and proved to be very supportive.”

My friend asked me to tell him “Thank you Colby, for your awesome ‘active listening’ skills, it helped me a lot.”

Colby himself says, “I can be likeable to a fault, but I am medically sound.”

Despite having quite a few relatives in the medical profession, Colby didn’t know from the onset he was going to be a nurse. After graduating from Porter Creek Secondary School, he went to U of L and did a year of Biochemistry.

“A Biochemistry degree is the recommended program for those who want to go to med school and helps you do well on the MCAT (Medical College Admission test.)exam.”

Someday, this first year of Biochemistry might come in handy if, or when, he wants to become a doctor or, as he said, to be a nurse practitioner. “I would have killed myself finishing that degree in Biochemistry with high marks,” Colby said. He wanted to switch into the nursing because he has always wanted to help people and loves the medical field. “And I also wanted a good job,” he says. “With a biochemistry degree a lot of people end up getting laboratory jobs doing research. Not my cup of tea.” By the time he realized this, he had missed the deadline to enroll in the nursing program.

He changed to neuroscience, and took electives for the nursing program. In 2011 he got into nursing and in 2015 he graduated.

Colby loves being a nurse, especially in a small rural hospital like ours. The work is often fascinating and exciting, and also more diverse than in a big hospital, like the five floor hospital in Lethbridge.

Also he loves Whitehorse, his hometown. “Lethbridge is too windy for me,” he smiles.

“The nursing profession prides itself on continuing competency, which means we regularly update our skills and knowledge and foster an attitude that it is important to continue to learn and improve ourselves and our practice in order to keep our patients safe.”

In 2016 Colby took an Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support course. In the future he will take Advanced Critical Care Nursing courses. These are courses for advanced studies in critical care and emergency nursing. There are also intern and mandatory educational days. They have to take N95, which is mask-fit testing, every year, and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) every two years.

What about sports? I remember Colby from the basketball team in high school. He says in university, sports were not a priority for him. He did participate in activities such as wall climbing, working out in the gym and he loved fencing. Now he is picking up sports more seriously again, and he plays badminton and softball – one of his childhood sports.

“I am loving it” he says.

Also, his family has some rural property – a hideaway where they love to camp out and play: quadding, kicking up mud and jumping in the river to get clean.

Colby plans to get outside more this summer “to enjoy our beautiful Yukon!”