Mount Royal University
April 16, 2021
Nursing alumna dedicated to her role as positive influence and coach
Mercedes Brown, BN’99, MN’10, immigrated to Canada as a young child from a small island nation in the Caribbean. She was ambitious and self-sufficient by nature — financing her own education through various jobs, managing a full-time position at a hospital with full-time studies as a student nurse.
“I was always very motivated,” Brown says, “willing to take on the hard work necessary in order to achieve my goals and realize my dreams. Health care, in one form or the other, has always been a goal of mine.”
Brown had her sights on pharmacy at first but her journey rerouted to nursing and ultimately to UCalgary. She would earn both undergraduate and master’s nursing degrees, with a focus on the health of seniors, a specialty she continues to pursue and holds in high regard.
Now a nurse clinician on a geriatric unit at Rockyview General Hospital, she finds fulfillment in providing the best care for seniors and willingly takes on the role of teacher, coach and mentor to nursing staff. Brown’s passion for mentoring extends into the UCalgary community as well, where she is a mentor to an undergraduate student through UCalgary Nursing’s NurseMentor program.
What is it about being a nurse that keeps you going? “Last year for Nursing Week, we had to write why we nurse, and at that time I wrote: ‘Nursing is a servant profession in which I am honoured to serve.’ I enjoy nursing because there are so many difference aspects to it…the best part of nursing is the opportunity it affords us to touch lives, to have a positive influence, not only on patients but also their families.
“Another aspect of nursing that is very important to me and that I am very passionate about is mentorship. As a staff nurse and in my present role as a nurse clinician, I have the honour of being a mentor and coach to staff, the opportunity to be a guiding force.
The ability to teach the ‘art of nursing’ to others, to have them become amazing caring professionals who go on to provide excellent, quality care to their patients and families, is priceless.
When were you happiest, and where? “As I reflected on this question, I thought about my childhood growing up in a rural area of Jamaica. We had a simple but very happy life. We were not rich but we had all of the basic things we needed. What I remember most is being part of a family that was very supportive, where the children were always playing and having fun. When I migrated to Canada I missed that support a lot because, as an immigrant, you have to make new friends, learn new norms, all of which takes time and can be very scary.”
What is one of your greatest accomplishments? “I spearheaded a drive to have a playground built in my community where my daughter attended school. I was part of an effort that included lobbying the government, businesses and individuals to contribute what they could towards this effort. We spent many hours collecting and exchanging bottles and then contributed monies earned to the cause.
“The project took over six years to be completed and was very daunting at times. However, it was very satisfying and I consider all the hard work very worthwhile when I see the children and the families in the neighbourhood enjoying the playground, knowing that we contributed to the health of our community.”
A dream yet to fulfill? “One of my dreams is to teach in the simulation lab at a university because I find that when students are able to master basic skills they have more confidence. I still remember those early days of training when I was fearful, nervous and anxiety ridden. I also remember the feeling of pride and accomplishment once I mastered a required skill — the confidence I gained from knowing and believing that I could do it.”
Mercedes’s motto: “If you are called on to do something, do it well, to the best of your ability.”
What did you do in your spare time during your nursing program? “Unfortunately I did not have much spare time during my nursing program because I had to pay my own way through school. That meant working a full-time job in the hospital while attending classes in pursuit of my degree. In essence, when I was not at school, I was at work. Fortunately, I had a manager who was very encouraging and who allowed me flexibility in scheduling my work hours around my school schedule.”
What do you consider a most overrated virtue? “Humility is the most overrated virtue. We have always heard that humility is a virtue and one should always be humble. I believe that once you put in the work, gained the experience and mastered whatever your endeavours are, you have earned the right to be proud of yourself. You have earned the right to be confident in your abilities, to be able to tout your abilities and skills. However, confidence becomes off-putting when it edges into arrogance.”
Have you had a mentor during your career? “I am lucky to have had many mentors and sources of support throughout every aspect of my life. In fact, I have mentors who are not even aware they are my mentors. These are people that I have observed and make every attempt to emulate because I believe they are the best at what they do.
“As a scheduler in the hospital, I had the opportunity to visit all of he units at the hospital where I was employed. This afforded me the chance to observe one particular nurse whom I thought was very smart, knowledgeable, caring and has such a sense of joy about her…I requested to be placed on her unit and for her to be my preceptor. She was a bit skeptical because she did not know me, but eventually agreed. She was not only a skilled preceptor but also a very effective teacher, and the experience was all that I had hoped…to this day, I still consider her to be my mentor and, very importantly, my friend.”
Any advice to share with new grads? “I would encourage new graduates to continue to be curious, to take advantage of continuing education opportunities and to remain engaged as they transition from the student role. I would also encourage them to identify someone who is able to be a mentor to them as they grow in their chosen area of nursing.
“We all must remember…that care of the patient must be provided as a whole. We are not just treating the physical ailments but are also responsible to see to patients' emotional and mental well-being. We must ask questions: ‘What is a hindrance to achieving the best outcomes for this particular patient? Is pain affecting physical therapy and therefore must be addressed? Are there cultural barriers affecting care? Is there a problem in the home that is preventing the patient from concentrating on what needs to be done to get well?’ Looking at the patient as a ‘whole’ is a crucial part of the plan of care, if the expected positive outcome is to be achieved.”
If you’re a graduate of UCalgary Nursing and would like to share your story, fill out this easy online form.