Sept. 8, 2023

Flex Friday: Holly Enarson

Flex Friday is brought to you by your VP Communications, Undergraduate Nursing Society to showcase the excellence of our undergraduate nursing students at UCalgary
Holly Enarson
Holly Enarson

Welcome to the 2023/24 Flex Friday series! This week, we’re introducing Holly Enarson, a third-year direct entry student currently entering Term 5 this fall. Holly is a well-established first responder in various roles and shares the role of her faith in her career. Meet Holly!

What did your journey to nursing school look like?

When asked about her journey to nursing school, Holly shares about her last minute application to the program. “I didn’t think I would be able to withstand some of the more tough aspects of the career,” she recalls. However, this changed when she began volunteering with the fire department for the town she grew up in, in which she got opportunities to assist with EMS calls. “I thought I would hate that but I loved it, then I realized…this needs to be something more…and I want to practice my medicine and my skills soon.” Holly originally joined as a junior firefighter three years ago when she met members of the Volunteer Firefighter Department at a planned structure fire on her family’s propertys and was inspired by the commitment shown by regular civilians to serving their community.

Which opportunities do you partake in outside of nursing school?

“A big reason for doing what I do for extracurriculars is that I didn’t want to go into nursing blind…there are a lot of things that we have to do in nursing that not a lot of people want to or should have to see.”

Holly shares more about her rationale in facing things head-on as these experiences prove, “I can do this, I’ve done that hard thing before, so I can do this next hard thing coming up."

During the school year, Holly volunteers as a senior responder and is now on the training committee for the Student Medical Response (SMR) team and finds, “it's very similar to all my favourite parts of being in the fire department.” In the months off from school, Holly continues to volunteer as a junior firefighter in her hometown as she makes an effort to not contain her lifestyle to one career. She's inspired by her fellow volunteers in the department.

Living in a rural setting, Holly shares the advantage of getting more experience earlier on, as she was able to work as a floating Health Care Aide (HCA) at all the units in her local hospital, just after her first year.

“In our training, we’re taught how to do things but being a HCA, I learned how I do things and what makes me unique as a medical professional. Everyone’s going to give patient care differently because everyone cares differently."

Through this initial entry in the hospital setting, Holly picked up a role as an Undergraduate Nursing Employee (UNE) in the Internal Medicine unit after completing her second year. She says it's where she increased her assessment skill confidence and understanding more of what comes after the assessment stage.

This summer, Holly also volunteered at a summer camp for four weeks. “It was so special to give back to the community that built so much into me when I was a kid.”

She connects her time with the summer camp to her philosophy of filling her own cup first, before pouring back into others.

“My life needs to be so much more than nursing…seeing the [best] of people and seeing the worst of their circumstances can be very fulfilling but unfortunately isn’t often life-giving. I have to make life and live my goals so embracing the outdoors, embracing friendships and relationships - those are the things that will help me and heal me from a challenging career.”

Holly, far right, with two other members of her SMR Group

Holly poses with two members of her SMR Group

How does your faith play a role in your career?

Holly explains her complex understanding of her faith in simple words, "The core of my faith is that though all humans make mistakes, we were still created for love. All the same, I will fail to love myself and others the way we were designed to. But God is right beside each of us offering boundless love beyond what we deserve."

She connects the humanity of divine connection to her chosen career path. "When I went into nursing, I knew that it was an opportunity to pour that love into people in so many ways. The ways I have been able to use faith as a bonding point at work…so many patients and staff are looking for something beyond our lives."

She shares that she is working on starting each day with the mentality of “God gave me all this love, look at all these people I get to share it with today.” Holly says she often relies on her faith as a source of nourishment: “there is so much trauma I need healing from already and faith offers that healing. Dealing with difficult situations, those bring big questions forward, so having that stability in knowing what I believe is reassuring.”

What has been your main strength and challenge in nursing school?

“One thing I have found to be a strength is, taking every opportunity that comes my way…the most valuable way I have seen this is in the small opportunities,” Holly reflects. She acknowledges the initial discomfort in practicing a skill for the first time, or asking and answering questions in the presence of your peers, “but it is so, so valuable when it comes to clinical practice.”

Conversely, Holly shares her challenge in attempting to “do school on my own. [However], there’s something so valuable about sitting down in an empty seat, looking at the person next to you and just talking to them about [anything to] build that nursing community.” She shares her willingness to become intentional with her time, for the purpose of building fulfilling relationships within and outside of nursing.

Holly sits on balance ball wearing pregnancy simulation belly while fellow nursing student practices aiding her

Holly participates in nursing simulation class with fellow UCalgary Nursing Student

What were your expectations of nursing school and were there any deviations from these?

Holly comments on the most difficult part of nursing school not being “the late nights and the early mornings, and the long lectures and the long days" but "the digging in and spending extra hours challenging yourself to think critically about your lecture.”

She shares how she expected nursing school to be difficult in its structural makeup, but finds it is more challenging to push oneself to pursue optional opportunities. Additionally, Holly notices how she expected to have “no time for social activities and no time for extracurriculars, and for anything outside of nursing” but quickly learned that these aspects are necessary not despite the fact one is in nursing school.

Considering this, what would your advice be to your first year self?

“I wish I could tell my first-year self that 'you will have opportunities for more than just nursing, it will be challenging, but you will do things that are really fun and really exciting."

Additionally, she thinks about her social connections that she did not anticipate and says, “there’s so much bonding and camaraderie to come out of nursing."

What would you say has been your greatest success in nursing school so far?

Holly recalls a time she was able to correctly identify her patient’s early progression to a stroke. From this experience, she “realized there are so many building blocks that went into that moment and recognizing that stroke, from assessments to vitals, building therapeutic relationships, and building friendships and relationships with my coworkers to be comfortable enough to speak up.” She comments on the importance of the initial foundational terms of nursing and their role in solidifying various moving parts of nursing care that may otherwise go overlooked.

What are some of your favourite subjects in nursing school?

“I loved anatomy and physiology in [my] first year, I loved the cadaver labs,” Holly exclaims excitedly, “I phoned my mom afterwards and said 'I touched a human brain and it was awesome!”” She shares her enthusiasm in seeing the labs as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Holly says makes interesting courses in her perspective is: “anytime I’m learning [about] why something happens and what do I do about it, those are incredible.”

Holly stands with other UCalgary Nursing students around baby training manekin

Holly, far right, with other UCalgary Nursing students

What are your favourite memories of school so far?

Holly says any time she spent with her clinical groups, from taking breaks in clinical together, or working on group projects, to working late nights in the library and having pre- and post-conference discussions of heavier topics. “Sometimes all we would do in that break room was laugh…those moments where we were able to take the intensity of nursing and take something humorous or joyous from it was so valuable to me”.

Which speciality or population are you looking forward to working in?

“There are probably aspects of every type of nursing that I would love, so being okay with change and being okay with trying something and not liking it." Currently, Holly has a greater interest in an emergency setting, given her previous experience with the Volunteer Firefighter department, “I love the fast-paced [setting], I love the adrenaline, I love seeing things not everybody can stomach and that is really fun for me.”

Holly is interested in caring for paediatric populations because she grew up with four younger siblings and sees the value they bring to her life as she grows up. "Kids are full of joy, they’re full of life, they’re ready to try line things and they say the funniest stuff…so that could be very life-giving for me.”

Do you have a favourite place to study on campus?

“Best place to study on campus is on the fourth floor of [Taylor Family Digital Library] TFDL, with the windows facing the mountains,” Holly specifies.

Aside from all the amazing work you’ve done this summer, did you do anything just for fun as well?

While Holly acknowledges wanting to do nothing somedays, “it's been important for me to take time to do nothing with people, to take the small opportunities to build relationships with those I really love,” she emphasizes the value of putting effort in her social connections.

Holly with her volunteer firefighter crew

Holly with her volunteer firefighter crew

What do you like to do for self care?

“Self care: surround yourself with people you want to be like,” says Holly. “That has been my self care, building friendships and taking initiative to build friendships with people I want to be like and people that inspire me,” Holly shares. She finds value in this time as she finds these relationships encourage her, her success, and her faith.

Who would you say is your role model?

“The classic answer, of course, my parents.” She shares their perseverance and strength she witnessed growing up, adding that “living in a rural setting, there’s some real life challenges.” Holly also mentions the beneficial role of females that have been intentional mentors to her growing up. “That has been so instrumental in my life, but also something I want to, as I get older, take into my adult life.”

Do you have any final words you would like to end on?

“As I look to this year ahead, I want to reassure myself that there is no reason to be afraid, everything that's going to come is challenging, but it’s also realistic so I’m looking forward to start living without that fear,” Holly profoundly reflects. She also adds to anyone who may be reading to “get outside…go for a walk, it's so worth it.”

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