May 13, 2019

Instructor helps students get their 'a-ha' moment with community health nursing

50 Faces of Nursing: Aaron Li, clinical instructor, UCalgary Nursing
Aaron Li, clinical instructor, UCalgary Nursing
Aaron Li, clinical instructor, UCalgary Nursing

As a UCalgary clinical instructor for the past eight years, Aaron Li is committed to community health nursing and designing, developing and implementing ways his students can become as enthusiastic as he is about this pivotal area of nursing practice.  A proud achievement is the sustained relationship – over the last five years – he has fostered with the YMCA and Wing Kei Care Centre. Both provide dynamic practicums for nursing students across the lifespan.

At the YMCA, Li encourages students to be innovative in order to: identify needs; build upon community strengths and capabilities; develop capacity; and create and implement action plans to address issues and promote healthy living. At Wing Kei, Li helps students develop their foundational nursing skills in their first facility placement in a culturally unique care centre.

“The continuous connection with the YMCA and seeing students get that ‘a-ha moment,’ realizing what community nursing is – that is rewarding,” says Li, who believes community health nurses are the best at supporting the health and well-being of individuals, families, groups, communities, populations and systems in the community. “It’s great to be part of something that has an impact for communities to maximize access and involvement in their health.”

Nominator Bikram Sekhon (BN’14) says that Li walks the talk. “He was central to my own career trajectory in community health because he provided such an exceptional student experience for me and my classmates. He received the Covenant Health Faculty of Nursing Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Award in 2016 so I know many other students feel exactly the same.”

Li was also the 2012-2013 recipient of - and nominated in 2018-2019 for – the UCalgary Students’ Union Teaching Excellence Award. This award is for instructors who have had a positive impact on students’ learning and is one of the only campus-wide recognition programs for instructors who make a long-lasting impact on students.

Aaron Li NICU

Li and his baby in the NICU being cared for by nurses he taught.

Tell us about a memorable experience you had at UCalgary Nursing and its significance in your life or career.
"Recently my baby boy was in the NICU for the first 98 days of his life.  I was recognized by a handful of staff nurses who were graduates from UCalgary Nursing who provided outstanding care to my baby and my family during a time when things looked bleak. As a parent, it was comforting and reassuring to experience those core skills that we teach to our students."

What most excites you about the future of nursing or changes coming in the profession?
"There is so much breadth and depth to the scope of nursing and therefore tremendous opportunity for nurses in a community setting. With the appropriate support and resources, community health nurses can elevate the health and well-being of those we serve. Nurses are fully capable to use capacity building and a strength-based approach to provide, coordinate or facilitate care and link people to resources. I am seeing more and more nursing students interested in community health as their future nursing career."

CHILL, Nursing Students N289

Carissa Lawton, former program director at CHILL (far left) and Li (far right) with nursing students

Is there a nursing issue you are especially passionate about or you would like to change?

"An area for change would be improving health in the community with innovation and use of technology to respond to the changing health needs. Finding ways to increase ease of use of health information and resources, using technology to be more effective and integrating more nurses throughout various community settings would be beneficial."

What piece of advice would you like to share with aspiring nurses?

"Embrace the ambiguity and unknowns of community health. View health as a dynamic process of physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being. Understand the nurse is key to assisting the community achieve better health outcomes and quality of care."

Is there one luxury in life you would rather not live without?
"That wi-fi connection and mobile technology. It is the main gateway for information and can increase our ability to make healthier choices, healthier environments, healthier communities and increase health literacy."

All through 2019, we'll be highlighting 50 Faces of Nursing and profiling outstanding nursing members in celebration of our 50th anniversary. If you know someone noteworthy (faculty, staff, alum, students, partners, etc.) who you would like us to feature, tell us more with this short online form. For more,