McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Woodworker carves out a nursing career

By Amanda Boundris
Published: June 11, 2013
Thomas Beattie
Thomas Beattie is one of 442 students gradudating fromMcMaster's nursing undergraduate program.

Thomas Beattie has traded in his hammer and tool belt for a stethoscope and medical monitors.

"I wanted to be in a field where I could help people instead of make things," said Beattie, who left a career in woodworking and construction to pursue nursing. "I realized that staying in construction wouldn't be fulfilling enough."

On Tuesday, June 11, he will be one of 442 students graduating from the McMaster Mohawk Conestoga Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) program at Hamilton Place.

After finishing high school at Westmount Secondary in Hamilton, Beattie, 24, spent a couple of years doing framing, roofing, renovations and finishing touches. Recognizing that he had a talent in it since he was young, at one point he could see it being his long-term career, he said.

However, he soon became restless. There were slow periods in the winter when there was less work. A guidance counsellor at Mohawk College where Beattie had been taking some courses, described the variety of career opportunities that nursing presents.

He had a desire to help people, he said. "While in construction I was always a person who wanted to help others."

But his main reason for leaving the trade to go into nursing was more personal.

"I had family members who developed cancer and I thought, there's got to be something more that I could do. Right now, building something for someone doesn't seem like enough," said Beattie.

His grandfather was diagnosed with bladder cancer. His godmother began her battle with colon cancer. Seeing them struggle ultimately influenced his career decision.

"They were both ecstatic I was getting into nursing, something I really wanted to do," he said.

And, his grandfather, who passed away last October, left him with advice he took to heart.

"My grandfather, who was a firefighter, had his fair share of seeing things on the job that were hard to deal with, so he was speaking from experience when he told me not to bring work home from the clinical setting. It just makes things that much more devastating," said Beattie.

When he left construction, those in the field wished him luck, saying he was a strong person to be going into a workforce like nursing because it is tough emotionally.

During his time in the program he was involved with the McMaster University Nursing Students Society and this past year he was the Canadian Nursing Students' Association's official delegate for the McMaster Mohawk Conestoga BScN program.

Beattie, who was born and raised in Hamilton, is currently applying for work and hoping to find a local job in oncology.

"My plan is to not leave Hamilton until I feel I've done enough here, that I've given back to the community," he said.

In addition to the BScN degrees being awarded, one PhD nursing student and two master's students will be presented with their graduate degrees, and graduates in medical radiation sciences will also receive their degrees at the 9:30 a.m. ceremony.  The nurses also have a pinning ceremony at 1 p.m. the same day.

An honorary Doctor of Science degree will be conferred at the ceremony on Dr. Edward Calabrese, a professor of toxicology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is an expert in susceptibility to pollutants; he has been a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and NATO Countries Safe Drinking Water committees; and served on the Board of Scientific Counselors for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

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