For Jennifer Cherniavsky and Katie McVicar, continuing education and professional development are a way of life, but they also have a passion for learning.
Jennifer and Katie are nursing professionals, among the 1,000 plus people employed by the Brant Community Healthcare System.
Patients expect hospital staff to be at the top of their game, experts in their field and up-to-date with the latest medical knowledge and technology. The Brant Community Healthcare System, which includes Brantford General Hospital and The Willett in Paris, expects their staff to be experts, too, and committed to ongoing learning.
Katie and Jennifer are just two examples of staff being devoted to continuing education.
Katie and Jennifer have been selected as 2017 Education Champions by the Education WORKS Alliance, after being nominated by colleagues at BCHS.
Jennifer Cherniavsky completed her Master of Education degree last summer at Nipissing University's Brantford campus, some eight years after getting her nursing degree from McMaster University.
"I have a desire and need to learn. My mind is curious," says the 33-year-old Brantford resident who is transitioning into a new role at the Brant Community Healthcare System.
But being a positive role model for her daughters, Ava, 4, and Ally, 3, is also top of mind.
"I wanted to be a role model to my daughters. I wanted to role model that you can have a family while obtaining education and/or advancing your career," Jennifer says.
"They do not have to put their career or aspirations on hold to raise a family, but they need to learn to balance it all, and involve their children or spouse or whoever in the decision and process."
Jennifer knows from her own experience how important "balancing" and family support is. She says balancing work, life and school was her largest obstacle to further her education; she feels she didn't overcome the obstacle, but she learned to "manage it."
She is thankful for her family and her husband, Andrew, who supported her by giving her time to study and financial support that allowed her to work four days a week, instead of five. She says her daughters kept her grounded and being with them reminded her of why she was continuing her education.
A mentor and several co-workers, including her BCHS director, Sandra Kagoma, also helped her with support and advice during her journey.
Although during her latest education journey she sometimes heard comments from others, who wondered why she was working on her Masters degree when she had young kids, Jennifer knows she made the right decision. She is proud of her accomplishment.
"I feel I am able to accomplish or take on a new challenge with more maturity, curiosity, drive," she says. "I am left with wanting more. I want to learn more – that's what a life-learner is, right?"
Story by Mark Skeffington, Education WORKS Alliance