Celebrating Teaching: VJ Gibbins

The choices you make now as a nursing student will forecast what kind of nurse you will become tomorrow, says Assistant Teaching Professor VJ Gibbins.

Allie Voisin - 13 December 2021

University of Alberta Faculty of Nursing Assistant Teaching Professor VJ Gibbins has worn many hats during his nursing journey, but his favourite so far has been teaching nursing leaders of tomorrow. He wants nursing students to know they can choose what kind of nurse they want to be and hopes his vibrant teaching styles will prepare them when that time comes. 

Hear from VJ Gibbins on why fell in love with Nursing, his advice for nursing students, and more through this Q & A.

What do you teach?

Acute Care Clinical, Nurs 321, 431, & 325 

What do you love about Nursing?

I love that nursing has afforded me the opportunity to have an unconventional career path that allowed me to travel and be a nurse around the world caring for newborns, children, and adults of all ages. I have been able to be a disaster response nurse, a summer camp nurse, a flight team nurse, to develop as a pediatric cardiac specialist nurse (California), certified as a public health nurse (California), and now fill my absolute favourite role as a teacher. 

What inspires your passion for Nursing?

My own experiences as a patient when I was a child are what started me on my path to becoming a nurse. Since then, it has been my experiences as a pediatric nurse and summer camp nurse that really drove home the importance of developing a relationship with the people I am caring for who were often someone else’s children. Learning through trial and error how to communicate with upset and scared families, how to show empathy when you don’t speak the same language, and how to explain difficult concepts in an easy-to-understand way. When you make a connection with someone who needs you and what you know or know how to explain, that drives my passion - to be needed for who and what I am in that moment - an RN! 

What is one thing your students or colleagues don’t know about you?

I am a crafty nerd! I have my own pottery studio in the garage with my own wheel and kiln. I am not yet an Etsy millionaire, but maybe someday! Does anyone need a pottery mug or bowl? :)

Where is your favourite place on campus?

Hands down, my favourite place on campus is the park area in front of Convocation Hall. The architecture of the buildings and the quiet shady areas are my quintessential vision of what a university campus should look like! 

If you had one piece of advice to give yourself as a student what would it be?

OMG - that’s easy! Study your physiology/pathophysiology more! Dear Younger VJ - you don’t understand the kidney or liver as well as you need to! Read those dang chapters!  

Anything you’d like to add? 

Not everything in nursing school gives you a choice, like when a paper is due or whether you are in the 8 am or 11 am lab. But you do get to choose what kind of nurse you want to be. Not just where you practice, but who you will be while you are there. The choices you make now as a student about how you will practice, what you will make a priority, and what advocacy and leadership will look like for you… well, those decisions today will foretell what kind of nurse you will become tomorrow. Make good choices! Sometimes they are difficult when others are telling you or showing you a faster or easier way. Make the choices that you can be proud of when no one is watching. Those are the ones that define you and your career.