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Q&A: Edith-Rose Cairns (BN'09)

Author: UNB Alumni

Posted on May 11, 2022

Category: UNB Saint John , Inspiring Stories


Edith-Rose Cairns BN, RN, CCHN(C), MPH, CTH™, RYT200 graduated from UNB's Saint John campus in 2009 from the faculty of nursing and over the last number of years has been working in Communicable Disease Control. Here she takes a moment to share why she is passionate about healthcare and her career in nursing.

Did you always know you wanted to study nursing?

It was not until my mid-twenties that I felt the call to nursing. After leaving my hometown of Saint John following a brief stint in the Bachelor of Business Administration program, I moved to Toronto and worked in banking. During my years in customer service, I listened to droves of struggles that people face, and soon realized that I wanted to be able to help people equitably, not just those who qualified for services based on their assets and credit scores.

What does a day in the life look like for you as a Clinical Development Nurse at Communicable Disease Control in Alberta?

My day begins with a virtual morning briefing with other members of the provincial leadership team, where we discuss any current FMP (fastest means possible) investigations and then prioritize the day’s work. From that point I am often updating clinical resource guidelines, working one on one with staff, and consulting on complex CDC cases. I am a designate of the Medical Officers of Health and work closely with them, virologists and microbiologists at our provincial laboratories, and many other stakeholders and partners. I also put my Masters of Public Health and skills in epidemiology to use by routinely monitoring trends within the province for notifiable diseases that our team investigates.

What has been most challenging in your role throughout the COVID-19 pandemic?

The sheer volume of work has been significant and can not be overstated for our collective team. Also, seeing the personal toll this pandemic has had on everyone working in healthcare has been difficult. This has added fuel to my internal fire/passion for union and social activism.

What’s the motivation that drives you to help others and work in healthcare?

Inequities and disparities amongst the population, especially when it comes to the social determinants of health, will always be a critical motivating factor for me. While I will always be driven to help protect the health of the public, especially those marginalized and most vulnerable, I am deeply dedicated to supporting my colleagues. Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system, and the personal price to do this work is extraordinarily high. I want to do anything and everything possible to support my fellow nurses, who give so much of themselves each day.

What has been most impactful and valuable for you personally working as a nurse in community health?

Being involved with various nursing associations, such as Community Health Nurses of Canada (CHNC), have connected me with nurses in my specialty area. Experienced nurses have given generously of their time mentoring me over the years in various positions I have volunteered for and have provided insights and advice that have been invaluable to my ongoing development.

Where do you hope to take your career in the future?

Being able to support those outstanding nurses who expertly and compassionately manage myriad complex health situations every day is an honor and privilege. My path will continue to include advocating for workplace health and safety, (which includes psychological safety), and recognition of and support for mental health issues for healthcare providers. My career aspirations are to provide the kind of support that has been genuinely and generously shown to me from various experienced nurses throughout my career.

As a UNB alumna, what did you enjoy most about studying in the faculty of nursing?

The faculty and staff made a significant impact on my education, as the small class sizes provided opportunity for my professors and clinical educators to get to know me. I originally started my Bachelor of Nursing in Toronto where I was part of a year-one cohort of almost 300 nursing students, but thankfully I transferred to UNBSJ where I joined a 50-ish student cohort. The amount of one-on-one guidance during my studies at UNBSJ helped me to identify what areas of nursing I would be best suited for and helped propel me into my career.