May 30, 2023

Class of 2023: Passion for people helped nursing grad thrive in program during pandemic

Paul Linek managed successes, academic involvement, volunteerism, obstacles and personal connection as a nursing student
Paul Linek

Photographer, researcher, athlete, volunteer and soon-to-be registered nurse Paul Linek, BN’23, is one well-rounded guy. What all these roles have in common and what is probably most central to Linek’s personality and success within and outside UCalgary Nursing is relationships and the people connection. That’s what drew him to nursing in the first place. 

“I was interested in science during high school,” says Linek now, “but everything I wanted to achieve involved people — and nursing is all about people. Caring for and working alongside patients with unique stories adds immense breadth to my professional life.” 

The nursing program is challenging, and experiencing it during COVID was not ideal. While the pandemic prevented him from a clinical placement for his first term of second year, he experienced the hardships in the following term when he was placed at a seniors’ residence.

“It was definitely challenging,” Linek admits. “Many residents were exceptionally isolated with strict visitor restrictions.” 

The rewarding and strenuous aspects of undergraduate nursing continued throughout Linek’s post-secondary academic career where he practised at a Rockyview General Hospital cardiac unit, a nephrology unit at Foothills Medical Centre, a pulmonary unit at Peter Lougheed Centre (PLC), and finally an acute care unit at Rockyview General Hospital where he is now employed as a graduate nurse.

Before his final year, Linek was exposed to numerous patient hardships: he had experienced his first patient death as well as having a very close connection to a patient who was diagnosed with metastatic cancer shortly after Linek met him. 

“I was emotionally impacted,” he says, acknowledging how stress-filled the job can be.

“It’s attempting to take on the situations of others while being empathetic and not becoming personally burned out and calloused over time.”

His nursing instructors and peers supported him through these challenging experiences. “Debriefing becomes a very important part of clinical practice — not just to reflect on your own experience, but to learn from your peers while supporting one another. 

Paul and Kristen

Kirstin and Paul. Kirstin was his preceptor when he worked on a pulmonary unit at PLC.

"I completed my preceptorship at a pulmonary unit at PLC with two exceptional preceptors,” continues Linek. “I practised 388 hours at this unit with each shift teaching me something unique and impactful. Both of my preceptors, Kirstin and Mike, guided me into my final transition as an independent RN and I couldn't be more thankful." 

The research component added an extra dimension to school for Linek, interestingly studying nurses during COVID-19. Inspired by a friend in neuroscience, Linek says he reached out to various nursing researchers at the university to find a supervisor with whom he was interested in working.

“I worked with Dr. Linda Duffett-Leger, RN, PhD, under an Alberta Innovates summer grant my first summer and worked with her in 2021 and 2022 under PURE (the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience).” 

Duffett-Leger was investigating Canadian nurses’ exposure to potential psychologically traumatic events during the COVID-19 pandemic, and designing an online intervention.

“Research is very naturally different to classroom learning,” Linek explains. “I coded data and developed summaries following a survey that received 300 to 400 responses. I found the preliminary results of our survey intriguing and sparking a need for action.” 

And then there is his volunteerism. “I have worked as a tutor and mentor since high school and during my degree volunteered as an orientation leader, sat on multiple student government committees — including co-chairing our grad committee — and the faculty’s art working group this past term.”

Linek also volunteers at Foothills Emergency and now trains others who want to do the same.

“I have always felt drawn to the emergency department and its diverse population. You work with patients ranging from young to old with an unlimited combination of diagnoses. Being the first point of contact for these patients inspires me.” 

His personal creative outlet has been semi-professional photography. “That’s the one artsy outlet for me,” he says with a laugh. “I enjoy capturing emotion and freezing it in a single moment.”  

That leads right back into why nursing fits him so well. “At the end of the day, I want my professional life to revolve around others and bettering their lives, and I am grateful to have graduated with a degree that allows me to pursue that passion.” 

Join our celebration as another class of enterprising University of Calgary students marks the milestone of graduation and begins making a difference in society, in fields such as health care, engineering, business and the arts. Spring Graduation and Convocation takes place May 29 to June 2, 2023. Learn more 

Read more inspiring stories about the accomplishments and journeys of the Class of 2023.

A note for soon-to-be UCalgary alumni: As you prepare to transition from student life, we encourage you to check out our Life Kit for Recent Grads — custom-built to inform you about the programs, benefits and services available to you as a member of the UCalgary alumni community.

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