Image of Karly Flannigan standing in front of East Kootenay Regional Hospital

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us a new appreciation for the many heroes that are working every day to keep us healthy and safe – including frontline healthcare workers. Many College of the Rockies students are putting in long days, and nights, in our communities in grocery stores, as health care assistants, and in hospitals and clinics. This is Karly Flannigan’s story.

Karly Flannigan is balancing being a student in a demanding nursing program, with working on the frontline as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) during a global pandemic.

A second-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) student, Karly’s end goal is to work in an emergency department as a Registered Nurse (RN). She began her career at the Kelowna General Hospital after completing her LPN training, before returning to Cranbrook to continue her education and to work at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital.

“Working as an LPN while going to school has been super rewarding and exciting,” she said. “I have learned so many new skills, and I find it amazing that I can have the opportunity to apply them to my current practice. I will admit, it has also been challenging. I feel as though I am nursing seven days a week. But I’m fortunate to be able to work, and to be able to financially support myself at this time.”

In addition to her very hectic schedule, the pandemic has also meant adjusting to a new way of learning in a program that typically requires significant human interaction.

“Due to the pandemic, we had to switch our program online. I find it challenging having such a hands-on program change to a different style of teaching, but I cannot thank the College enough for the way they have handled things. I am extremely grateful that our program is still running and that we can complete our second year as scheduled.”

Working at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital during the COVID-19 crisis has provided Karly with a learning experience like no other and helped her to feel a bond with her nursing colleagues across the globe.

“This pandemic has been a new experience for us all,” she said. “The East Kootenay Regional Hospital is incredible and has done everything they can to ensure the staff is remaining safe. It is a scary time, but us nurses have come together to support each other. One of the challenging parts is having to wear a mask and goggles for the entire 12-hour shift, but nurses around the world are rocking it as usual. I’m fortunate to be able to finish school as well as do my job to keep our patients safe.”

Challenges aside, Karly remains positive and grateful.

“Being able to attend such a close-knit college with faculty who are dedicated to their students’ success has been so rewarding. And to be able to work at a beautiful patient-centred hospital with a manager and patient care coordinator who are very invested in my learning and my future there has been inspiring.”

When asked if there is one message she would like to relay at this time, Karly provided a reminder of the importance of perspective.

“This pandemic confronts us with what we are most afraid of: death, scarcity, lack of control. It’s not just the virus that is contagious, it’s also our reaction to it. Do we react with panic or peace, fear or love, division or unity?  It is important to be aware and to respond wisely.”

Thank you, Karly – and thank you to all the essential workers in our region – for your hard work and dedication during this challenging time.

Are you a College of the Rockies student or alumnus who is giving back during the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you know someone who is? Send your story ideas to ddux@cotr.bc.ca