Nursing educators aim to bring out the best in their students; Heather Straight is among those top instructors who help bring everyone around them to a higher level. Known as a brilliant and engaging instructor, Heather has a knack for connecting with students and colleagues to help them succeed.
“She is the best instructor I’ve ever had the pleasure of teaching with,” says colleague Shannon Griffin, who has worked near Heather in various roles over the years. “I have experienced her excellent instruction first-hand and seen the positive effect she has on her students… She has a deep respect for all learners’ experience and knowledge, which comes through in her teaching.”
Today, Heather is Regional Manager of Clinical Education at Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver. Previously, she has taken on roles ranging from front-line nursing to specialized practice and nursing program management. Whether teaching, providing direct patient care or improving the health care system at a larger level, she engages with others with respect and compassion — which always helps make those around her feel supported. “Heather’s commitment to helping others is shown by the sheer variety of people who seek her support,” says Clinical Practice Consultant Tracy Schott. “As a graduate student, I saw that many other students sought her out for consultation and tutoring and she was always there to help.”
Sometimes, practical nursing education requires out-ofthe- box thinking to adapt to local realities. Heather isn’t shy about asking what health care professionals can do differently if a process isn’t working — and searching for the answer. For instance, as a Project Lead for the Shifting to Wellness in Healthcare initiative, Heather helped develop programs now used across Canada assisted nursing staff to reduce injuries and maintain service levels.
As well, recognizing the need to provide education for nurses transitioning to new workplaces, she put supports in place to help retain the wisdom of experienced nurses while helping them adjust to a rapidly-changing health care environment. “Heather knew that regardless of the school of nursing they were from or which health authority they were getting placements in, they all needed the same standard orientation to ensure safety,” says Regional Clinical Advisor Sally Breen. “She worked with the education technology team to innovatively develop the curriculum in an online format, seamlessly facilitating clinical placements.”
Many of Heather’s program initiatives have had an immediate, practical benefit for working nurses. Earlier in her career, she co-developed VCH’s Safe Patient Handling Policy, which immediately helped to prevent injuries in nurses from moving patients manually. More recent work as a consultant on shift work education and fatigue management for various organizations has also helped to improve safety for staff and patients alike.
Heather gives back generously, contributing to numerous education committees, such as the BC Academic Health Council, Practice Education Guidelines Working Group and more, as well as public organizations like the Vancouver Parks Board. She goes far above and beyond in her community service — acting as a role model to her colleagues, in whatever she does.