By Amanda Boundris
Thomas Beattie has traded in his tool belt for a stethoscope.
"I wanted to be in a field where I could help people instead of make things," said the Mohawk College student, who left a career in woodworking and construction to pursue nursing. "I realized that staying in construction wouldn’t be fulfilling enough."
On June 11, Beattie was one of 442 students who graduated from the McMaster Mohawk Conestoga Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) program at Hamilton Place.
After finishing high school, Beattie 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, 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 left him with advice he took to heart before passing away in October.
"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.
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 awarded, one PhD nursing student and two master’s students received graduate degrees, and graduates in medical radiation sciences were presented with their degrees at the ceremony.
An honorary Doctor of Science degree was to be conferred on Dr. Edward Calabrese, a professor of toxicology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an expert in susceptibility to pollutants. However, he was unable to attend due to unforeseen circumstances.
In her address, valedictorian Emilie Hay told the class of 2013 that with their McMaster degrees, they now have the tools to "begin to map out our careers in health care."
She also reminded the group of how important it is that when it comes to their patients, "We see the whole person and become their voice when they need one."
McMaster President Patrick Deane said "the new ideas and discoveries that will shape our future" will come from the new graduates.
He encouraged them to consider the question: "Where will your university education find its greatest value and where will it have its greatest effect?"