patience hero


Out of tragedy, Zimbabwean student finds a career she loves

In her mother’s memory, Patience Muchena wants to spread compassion to those in need.

Patience Muchena enjoys nursing’s big picture.

“I love being with the patients. I love to sit and talk to them. These are human beings; we should be able to put them first, to make them know that they’re not alone” says the second-year Practical Nurse Diploma student. 

Eight years ago, Patience’s mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer in the family’s home country of Zimbabwe. She was diagnosed at stage four, when Patience was in her third trimester of pregnancy with her son Adrian. 

“I watched her go through all that pain,” says Patience, in tears. 

“The last two weeks, she got admitted into hospital. For me, it just seemed like the nurses really didn't care. It felt like, OK, we just brought her here to die. So that moment is when I said, even if I can not change everybody's life, I can make the world a better place one patient at a time. And show their family that they're not going through this alone. That was the moment when I said, I'm going to be a nurse.”

Four years later, Patience arrived in Calgary. She had very little post-secondary education: her mother had been a single parent since Patience’s father passed away when she was 13, and after graduating from high school, Patience went straight to work. She eventually started school for accounting, but couldn’t afford to continue past one semester. 

But during her first week in Calgary, as she and her family were walking across downtown from one organization to another (they didn’t know you could take the C-Train), she saw Bow Valley College, and thought to herself, “I'm gonna be here one day.”

It was just a feeling she had. 

Months later, she was introduced to a fellow single mom who had been to the College, and insisted Patience enrol. With the goodwill of a student advisor who ensured Patience’s application was considered despite Alberta Works approving her funding after the College’s registration deadline, she secured a spot in Academic Upgrading. The student advisor had told her team that Patience had come to the Office of the Registrar on the first day of registration, which is why they accepted her application. “I was the happiest person on earth,” says Patience.  

She is glad she started with upgrading, as it allowed her to get to know Canada’s education system before continuing onto practical nursing. She took the then-pre-Practical Nurse program, which has now morphed into Career Program Pathways – Health. She was struck by the instructors. “All the instructors in upgrading: I don’t know how you pick them, but amazing.”

Now, in her second-year of the Practical Nurse Diploma, Patience is loving “everything” about the program — especially the social aspect of it. “Just helping them out. Walking them to the washroom. I love to let them know that this isn’t just a job.”

Now with two sons (Adrian is eight and Jayden is three and a half), Patience plans to continue to get educated after leaving the College. “I need to help people get cancer screenings back home,” she says. “The reason my mom got diagnosed is that she didn’t get pap tests. If I could start a foundation that could help less fortunate women go for cancer screenings for free, it would make a big difference. For me to do this, I need to keep getting educated.”

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Posted on August 14, 2018

Story by Julie-Anne Cleyn, photo by Chris Bolin

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