Selkirk College Marks 50 Years of Nursing Excellence

July 12, 2023
Selkirk College Nursing Class from Early 1970s

It’s the educational bedrock for the region’s health care system and this summer the Selkirk College Nursing Program is celebrating 50 years of graduates who have strengthened communities through passion in meaningful careers.

A half century ago, the first cohort of 12 students graduated from the 21-month Registered Nursing Program based out of the Castlegar Campus. Since the Class of 1973 entered the health care sector, almost 1,000 nursing professionals have graduated into vital careers both near and far.

“Graduating from Grade 12 and two months later embarking on a learning journey that continued throughout my nursing career and indeed my life, was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down at the time,” says Catherine MacAskill, one of the members of the first class. “Although I often found the early months of the program overwhelming, frightening and sometimes confusing, I learned to push through some very tough lessons and stay-the-course in order to realize my dream of becoming a registered nurse.”

MacAskill spent an incredible 47 years in the career where she worked in a variety of settings that included stops in Vancouver, Trail, Fernie, Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond and Surrey. From surgical units and high intensity rehabilitation to specialist seniors’ clinic nurse and medical offices, her experience spans the spectrum of care.

A lifelong learner, MacAskill returned to formal post-secondary to achieve her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at age 52 and a Master of Science in Nursing at age 58. Maintaining close friends she met while a student at the Castlegar Campus, MacAskill fondly recalls the educational foundation she received close-to-home in the West Kootenay.

“I learned perseverance, dedication, the ability to multitask and refocus continuously, the great importance of advocating for patients, clients and residents, the need for pushing myself towards new and exciting adventures,” says MacAskill, who is now retired and living in Armstrong.

A Cornerstone of Program Offerings

Meeting the changing needs of both students and the community, what is offered for future health care professionals has changed over the last five decades. The college currently delivers the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program through a partnership with the University of Victoria that enables learners to spend all four years in the West Kootenay. In January 2023, the college launched the two-year Practical Nursing Program that is based out of the Trail Campus.

Class of 1973 Nursing Program Student Catherine MacAskill
A member of Selkirk College’s first cohort of graduates from the Registered Nursing Program in 1973, Catherine MacAskill spent 47 years as a health care professional. Now retired and living in Armstrong, she is seen here holding a class photo from her days at the Castlegar Campus.

Jocelyn Schroeder is currently the Chair of the college’s School of Health & Human Services. She is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program alumna and returned to the Castlegar Campus in 2017 as an instructor. 

“Fifty years of offering nursing education is a momentous occasion,” says Schroeder. “Looking back on the program’s journey, it is evident that the impact of Selkirk College nursing graduates has been profound and far reaching. With a curriculum designed to foster critical thinking, evidence-based practice and a holistic approach to patient care, the college has graduated nurses who are well prepared to meet the challenges of a rapidly evolving health care landscape. Over the past five decades, this college has nurtured and shaped countless individuals into compassionate and competent nursing professionals, contributing to the well-being of the community and beyond.”

To celebrate the significant 50-year milestone, Selkirk College is inviting nursing and health care alumni from across the province to come together and reminisce about their experiences. The college is asking former students—both old and new—to share their remarkable stories about how their nursing careers have unfolded and the impact they have had on the lives of their patients.

If you are a Selkirk College health care alumni please share your story and photos here.

Learn more about the School of Health & Human Services.

SDG 4 Quality Education

 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all