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Cynthia Harb

Registered Practical Nurse, Niagara Health
Graduate of Graduate of Graduate of Practical Nursing program, 2015

May 6 – 12 marks National Nursing Week, with this year’s theme being “Changing Lives. Shaping Tomorrow.” This theme acknowledges the significant impact nurses have on individuals, communities, and the future of healthcare.

In support of Canada’s nurses this year, we are honouring one of our remarkable Niagara College Nursing alumni, Cynthia Harb, who graduated from the Practical Nursing program in 2015. We caught up with Cynthia to hear about her remarkable journey in nursing and beyond. Her story is not only a testament to her dedication and hard work but also to the transformative power of education and the willingness to embrace new opportunities.

Current role and career path

My current role is a Registered Nurse, where I work on a children’s health unit and an emergency department as a regular nursing staff. I also started my own foot care business which I do part time and recently joined with Niagara College and participated in the foot care assessment clinic to assess and care for the homeless in the Niagara region.

I originally started working as a medical secretary while doing a biology degree at Brock University. Once I had completed that degree, I realized that it wasn’t for me. I then completed the RPN program at Niagara College and worked as an RPN for seven years. I started off on a medical unit for about three years, then tried a long-term care unit for a short period of time and realized this was not my passion. I then applied to an emergency department (ED) and have been there for almost four years now and still work there casually today. During that time period, I knew I wanted to go back to school, and I continued my education through Nipissing University. After five years of part-time education and working full time, last June I completed the bridge program from RPN to RN. Since then, I have begun working on a pediatric unit and continue to work in the ED as well. I truly love what I do. 

My career in foot care was not something I intentionally chose to purse but ended up being a career I enjoy. After completing the RPN program, the doctor’s office where I worked as a medical secretary took me on as a nurse, and at the time, their foot care nurse was going on maternity leave and they asked if I would be interested in filling in for the position. I was initially hesitant because I had no previous training but told myself to give it a shot. I was trained by the office’s foot care nurse, completed additional courses through Mohawk College and worked there for about a year and a half. Once my contract ended, I realized I truly enjoyed doing foot care and decided to go off on my own. I am thankful for having taken that leap of faith because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am today in my career.

Influences and inspiration

The person who influenced me to embark on a career in nursing was my father and an old acquaintance. I think I made it my own by pushing myself further with my education and being open to try new things.

Standout NC experience

During my time at Niagara College, I remember how tough the RPN program was and what it took to get through it. I believe it helped build my confidence and helped me to mature as a person. It also helped me build new friendships which I still very much cherish because I could not have made it through the program without them. It also made me realize how dedicated nurses are and how tough the job can be. What I liked about the program was that it was very hands on, which I think helped me better understand the skills required to be a nurse. A book can only teach you so much in this line of work, I learned the most by seeing how to action the skills and apply knowledge in the real world. 

I was involved in a nursing and dental trip to Honduras through Be World Ready after having graduated from Niagara College. I helped do nursing assessments for the less fortunate and helped translate in Spanish. I also helped teach nursing assessments to nursing students on the trip, and together we helped set up clinics in different cities to aid the less fortunate and provide healthcare teaching and wound care if needed. The person that stood out for me during my time at Niagara College was my instructor Mark Grabner. Mark played a pivotal role in spearheading the nursing trip with Be World Ready, an unprecedented opportunity at the time. He was always there for the students and was a very good teacher because he made learning fun. I’ll never forget on graduation day when I was getting ready to walk towards the stage and he said, “Hey, you’re a nurse now so make sure you walk like one,” to which I replied asking how does a nurse walk? His response: “With purpose!”

Words of wisdom

The advice I would give a prospective student entering the nursing program is to be prepared to work hard. This isn’t an easy job, and it requires a lot of patience and perseverance. It also requires empathy, good bedside manners and strong time management and critical thinking skills. However, despite all of the hard work required, it is very rewarding. Trying something new is always scary but if it is what you want, then my advice would be to stick with it because new things in life can be a great thing. Don’t be afraid of change and keep moving forward with purpose. 

‘I’ll never forget on graduation day when I was getting ready to walk towards the stage and he said, “Hey, you’re a nurse now so make sure you walk like one,” to which I replied asking how does a nurse walk? His response: “With purpose!” – Cynthia Harb