Our Community Ambassador, Hailee interviewed our Executive Director. We learned about ENABLE, self-care, hammocks, and evolutionary biology.

Hi, Sue! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. We are curious. Tell us a little bit about how you used your role as a nurse to fill a need in the community by creating ENABLE.

  • After graduating from the accelerated Bachelor of Nursing program at the University of Calgary in 2012, I knew that I wanted to make positive change in peoples’ lives; I just didn’t know what or how at that time. After graduating, I eagerly pursued positions on a medicine/neurosciences unit then on an adolescent addictions and mental health inpatient unit. Through my experiences, I noted inequities in the way that vulnerable persons were being cared for. With previous experiences working as a one-to-one support worker with people with disabilities, I carried a special interest in caring for people with disabilities. In 2015, I worked my way up to a position with the Psychiatric Emergency Services team in the emergency department at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. This position allowed me to see another perspective to an ongoing challenge across our community- providing the right support at the right time to families. That year, I pursued my Master of Nursing program (thesis-based) at the University of Calgary in hopes that I might gain the right tools to make big changes to the way families are cared for. I have not looked back since; I co-founded ENABLE, a social enterprise that partners families who have a young person with disability to support workers based on shared interests, scheduling needs, and location. ENABLE helps families find the right support at the right time, working towards a mission to make access a right, not a privilege.

Between working as a nurse at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, being an entrepreneur, working on your Master of Nursing, and teaching nursing students, you don’t seem to have enough hours in the day, which must be stressful! Are there any strategies you have for self-care that work for you?

  • Juggling all of these roles is so stressful and it is so hard to find enough time in each day to accomplish what I need. I am often sitting on my laptop past midnight asking where the day has gone. People looking in might think that I have things figured out, but I really don’t! My to-do list is never complete, and I often feel guilty for not doing more (tip#1, believe that you are enough and that you are doing enough). For example, my role with ENABLE is to take others’ problems and solve them; meaning that their stress becomes my stress, which can be a lot to take on. I feel deeply for the families I work with and try as hard as I can to meet their needs adequately. However, I often have to remind myself that I am doing all that I can and that I cannot take on others’ urgency as my own (tip#2, others’ emergencies do not always have to become your emergencies). If you talk to any entrepreneur, you will learn that there is no such thing as work-life balance (tip#3), but as a nurse, it is so important to have outlets for self-care. For me, self-care looks like listening to crime podcasts, reading books on self-development, spending time with my husband and family, going out to eat with as-busy-as-me friends (tip#4, find your tribe and stick with them; change your tribe if you don’t feel energized after spending time with them), and spending time outdoors. I am mindful about what I need each day and respond when my body is tired or when my brain needs refreshing (tip#5).

If you could do anything you wanted and had unlimited funds, what would you do?

  • This sounds cheesy, but I would do what I am doing. Okay, maybe I would make some tweaks. If I could do anything, I would do it alongside people with passion (check!). With unlimited funds, I would work to become a change-maker (check!). The tweaks would be that you might see me on the road more- road tripping, camping and backpacking with my husband and friends. My dream is to work-from-hammock and I could imagine many places in the world that I would like to string my hammock! I also wouldn’t mind revisiting many of the 20 countries I have already backpacked!

What is a fun fact most people don’t know about you?

  • A fun fact about me (that most people don’t know, but my friends definitely do) is my special interest in ecological and evolutionary biology. I studied Zoology prior to my nursing degree, receiving my Bachelor of Science in Zoology with a concentration in marine invertebrates in 2011. I have been fortunate to travel around the world visiting places of ecological importance. For example, in 2014 I travelled to Ecuador to visit the Galapagos Islands, seeing the Galapagos tortoises and sailing on the same waters that Darwin sailed while he formulated his argument for natural selection. Earlier this year, my husband and I travelled to Torotoro, Bolivia, home to thousands of fossils and well-preserved dinosaur footprints from 120 million years ago. A highlight from that trip was visiting the national park where there was a 45-degree upheaval of what would have been flat land 68 million years ago. Across the surface of the rock, we could see the overlapped and intersected footprints of bipedal and quadrupedal dinosaurs of drastically different sizes. Closer to home, we did a bone dig expedition in the Albertan badlands and in 2011, I explored the Burgess Shale in Field, British Columbia. This UNESCO site features some of the richest fossil beds in the world, heavily laden with fossils from the Cambrian explosion over 500 million years ago. If you are not already convinced, my love for biology is also demonstrated by my commissioned graffiti artwork, featuring a 9 by 10-foot North Pacific Giant Octopus across my living room wall.

If you weren’t a student, what would you be doing?

  • This question could be taken two ways as I could talk about what I will do once I have completed my program or I could talk about what I would do if I wasn’t a nurse. I will tackle the latter first: If I wasn’t a nurse, I think I would enjoy being an interior designer or urban planner. I love exploring the aesthetics and usability of spaces and learning about how people interact with their spaces and environment. After having travelled by camper van through the outback in 2014 and through western Canada this year for my honeymoon, I think an awesome job would be to camperize vehicles and design them to best meet the needs of their owners and their future travels! For the former, I would continue pursuing my current venture, ENABLE as well as continuing in my positions as a nursing instructor with Bow Valley College, a RN with the Psychiatric Emergency Services team at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, and as a supportive roommate to a young man with autism. After graduation, I will continue as co-founder and executive director of ENABLE, a social enterprise that partners families who have a young person with disability to support workers. ENABLE helps families find the right support at the right time, working towards a mission to make access a right, not a privilege.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

  • When I think of where I see myself in 10 years, I see myself as happy, pursuing my passions, and content with ten years into my marriage with my husband. I know I will still be pursuing nursing in some form, although it might not be bedside nursing. I am a change-maker by heart, so I know what I see for 40-year-old Sue emotionally and mentally; however, I am challenged with predicting where that path might lead in a more tangible or physical sense. I think that creating goals for the future is an important exercise, but I weigh this against the risks of missing out on serendipitous opportunities along the way.