“Being a union member means I’m part of an important social movement”
“I had no idea the union did so much for everyone,” says Yang, now in her second year as a student liaison. “Not to mention all the human rights and equity activities the union does for the community and for nurses as well — it was a big eye-opener!”
2,675student nurses in BCNU
BCNU’s student liaison program matches an elected BCNU regional chair with nursing schools across the province. Each class elects one or more volunteer students to liaise with the chair. The student liaisons gain invaluable leadership and development opportunities while serving as a resource for their classmates.
Yang’s path to nursing school — and her involvement in the union — was a natural one. Before enrolling, she worked as support staff for the Canucks Autism Network and volunteered regularly for the Vancouver Crisis Centre, two experiences that brought out her passion for giving back.
“I knew nursing was the right career for me because I get to do what I love, which is helping others,” she says. “I especially love working with the younger generation and that’s why I choose neo-natal as my specialty.”
She first learned about BCNU when she stumbled upon the union’s website, and learned she was eligible to take the Building Union Strength (BUS) course. The class showed her just how many opportunities there are for students in the union, and she quickly became more involved.
“There’s a lack of awareness of how important our union is among students and all this work that’s done for us, which is why it’s really important to include students in BCNU activities. We will be future members, and so we can create a positive cycle by engaging students.”
“There’s a lack of awareness of how important our union is among students and all this work that’s done for us, which is why it’s really important to include students in BCNU activities,” Yang says. “We will be future members, and so we can create a positive cycle by engaging students.”
In 2017 Yang worked as a summer student at BCNU and helped plan the annual Human Rights and Equity Conference. She also developed a comic book to teach nurses and communities how to become an ally to marginalized groups by standing up and amplifying their voices.
Another highlight of the summer was helping to facilitate a three-day BCNU communications course for internationally educated nurses. The course aims to help nurses who received schooling outside of Canada navigate complex issues such as language, culture, and racism in the workplace.
“That was such a great experience because I’m an immigrant myself,” Yang explains. “Everyone was so engaged and wanted to learn. By the end of the course the students who were originally shy had gained more confidence in their speaking skills. It was so great to see.”
Her experiences with BCNU have helped with her studies as well. Yang regularly writes about her union activities in the BCIT nursing newspaper, sharing what she learns with her fellow students.
“I’ve learned so much from my work with the union, and I like to share that with the student body,” she says. “For example, I’ve learned a lot about the discrimination and marginalization experienced by First Nations communities, and why raising awareness about this topic is so important.”
Yang will be graduating this year, and dreams of working in a neo-natal intensive care unit. She plans to continue her involvement in the union as she launches her nursing career.
“Being a union member means that I’m part of an important social movement, and have a role in advocating for our community and for all types of nurses,” says Yang. “Aboriginal nurses, nurses of color, nurses with disabilities, male nurses, young nurses — I want to help give everyone a voice.”