UFV President Joanne MacLean (left) and Dean of Health Sciences Alastair Hodges (centre) with donor Mary Erickson.
When family can’t be there, nurses fill the gap.
They are trained professionals who tend to patients’ pressing medical needs, but they also provide important compassionate human contact at times of great stress and uncertainty.
Because nurses in the Fraser Valley provided excellent care to her late parents when they were in full care and hospice, Mary Erickson of Chilliwack has established a new scholarship for nursing students enrolled at the University of the Fraser Valley.
Erickson made a generous donation to create the Jackie and Dick Newton Endowed Leadership Scholarship. It will fund a scholarship of $750 for a UFV nursing student annually in perpetuity.
Dick and Jackie Newton, the parents of Mary and her sisters Helen and Liz, enjoyed several decades of retirement in Chilliwack, living a vibrant life full of friends, activities, and community involvement.
When Dick entered hospice after a lengthy illness, he received “terrific care,” according to Mary. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 86.
“We were able to be together as a family, and the nursing staff took on the challenges of making sure our father was comfortable and secure.”
When Jackie was diagnosed with cancer in 2019 at the age of 96, her health declined quickly.
All three of her daughters rallied to support her, with Mary’s sisters Helen and Liz traveling from Vancouver Island and Toronto to be with their mother. The family couldn’t provide the kind of care she needed at home, and Jackie moved into full care in a Chilliwack care home.
“Both our parents created special bonds with certain nurses and it comforted us to know they were well cared for physically and emotionally,” says Mary. “It is very difficult for family to be ‘there’ all the time for ailing parents and it is so important to be able to trust that when you leave, someone who is trained, empathetic and committed can be relied upon to care for your loved ones. Having confidence in the nurses allowed all three of us to take time away from the bedside. And sometimes, we needed the nurses to provide emotional support for us.”
After her mother passed away in late 2019, Mary made the decision to fund a scholarship in her parents’ memory.
“When I considered a scholarship, it was important to support education in the Fraser Valley,” she says. “The fact that 80% of UFV nursing graduates stay local was important. Many of the nurses who cared for our parents, both in hospital and at the Cascade hospice, were from the Valley and had graduated from UFV. Nurses are by the bedside, every day, at all hours, and have the opportunity to create a special relationship with patients. Geriatric care, in my opinion, is unique and has its own challenges and rewards.”
She and her sisters were especially impressed with the nurses’ patience with their parents.
“While both our parents retained their mental faculties, patience at the bedside was key. Although the nurses had heavy workloads and very demanding jobs, the majority of them would take an extra minute to reassure, answer questions and look for ways to make things better.”
“We are very grateful to Mary for this generous tribute to her parents, which will inspire nursing students at UFV for generations to come,” said Anita Nielsen, Executive Director of Advancement.