Dr. Lela Zimmer is known for introducing a thoughtful approach to new ideas in nursing. Helping nurses to be the best that they can be requires teaching that goes above and beyond teaching practical, day to day skills: it also means teaching them about the philosophy of their profession, so these professionals can understand the full meaning and value of what they do. Lela is a trusted, passionate educator with an unwavering moral compass — a role model to new nurses as well as her colleagues in health care.
Since 2000, Lela has developed and taught 20 courses to over 1,100 students from the undergraduate to PhD level. She has taught Nursing Epistemology, Nursing Research, Perinatal and Women’s Health Nursing, Program Planning and Evaluation and Community Health Nursing — running the gamut from practical front-line health care knowledge to the high-level thinking behind it all. She has also supervised 24 graduate students at various levels and been involved in many innovative research projects — pushing forward nursing practice and education on many fronts.
“Dr. Zimmer is a pivotal faculty member within the University of Northern British Columbia’s School of Nursing,” says School of Health Sciences Martha MacLeod. “A senior faculty member in the school, she is respected for her wisdom, significant contributions and leadership. She consistently demonstrates true excellence as a professional nurse and nurse educator.”
Lela’s teaching has consistently received excellent ratings in student evaluations — and her former students aren’t shy about sharing their approval. “I first met Dr. Zimmer as a 3rd-year nursing student at UNBC where she taught a course introducing the philosophy of nursing,” recalls Elizabeth Mooring. “This is a daunting subject — I was intimidated and also doubtful about the importance of the class. Thank Goodness for Lela. Her teaching style, knowledge and passion for the subject always shone through in her engaging, organized lectures. She brings philosophy down to earth and helps nursing students recognize its importance in everyday practice.”
Outside of class, Lela is known as a diligent and inspiring mentor. “She introduced me to some classic philosophy readings and was attuned to my interests,” says MSN Erin Wilson. “I benefited immensely from our discussions of the paradoxical nature of philosophy and nursing. She encouraged my ideals, challenged my beliefs and improved my critical thinking and writing skills with constructive and compassionate feedback.”
Within the School of Nursing and its undergraduate programs, Lela has been leading the movement to become practice-driven through its partnership with Northern Health. She has led curriculum development of the Rural Nursing Certificate Program and is its Academic Lead, bringing in Practice Advisors from the BC Health Authorities and other experienced nurses to the table for further curriculum development and revision. “She moved beyond conventional approaches to curriculum by placing trust in the knowledge of practitioners and their skills, to help students learn,” says Dr. Sandra Theroux.
As an extraordinary instructor and communicator, Lela continues to create synergy between students, faculty and Northern Health to ensure all are working together for the greater good.