Applied Leadership: How A Surgical Nurse Invested in Her Career

Categories: Student Stories, Uncategorized


Please note that Alanna enrolled in LEAD – a precursor to the Diploma in Applied Leadership, which includes a similar set of leadership courses and approach to learning.

Enroll at a Bible College?  It’s not something you would expect Alanna Ekkert to do.

A recent graduate of UBC Okanagan’s Nursing program, Alanna had landed a position in a Kelowna hospital, working on a post-surgical ward.  It was a job she loved.

“Nursing is a really good fit for me,” Alanna explains.  “I love people. I like working with my hands and seeing a tangible outcome at the end of the day.  Academics-wise, I love life sciences and biology.  And I was very interested in going international, so the transferability of nursing was a really big deal for me.”

Alanna was exactly where she wanted to be, so when an old friend recommended she consider LEAD, a two-semester program at Columbia Bible College, she dismissed the idea at first.

Before long, though, working twelve-hour shifts in a high-stakes, stressful environment made Alanna realize two things about herself as a nurse.  One: she had ideas for changes on the ward, but she wasn’t sure how to make a difference.  Two: she needed to learn how to balance her demanding career with the rest of her life.

So Alanna put her nursing career on hold, moved to Abbotsford, and threw herself into Columbia’s LEAD program, an intense semester of experiential leadership studies, followed by a leadership practicum semester to build her skills.  Within weeks, she was convinced she had made the right choice.

“I had a misconception that leadership was really others-focused, but the LEAD program starts with leading self.  If you can’t lead yourself, you’re never going to be able to lead others.  I had a lot of really unhealthy patterns that probably would have led me to burn out in the next ten years.  LEAD helped me learn how to focus on sustainability, to learn how to balance so I can be more effective over the long term.”

Another key leadership lesson for Alanna has been the idea of knowing your purpose.  “LEAD has a strong focus on why.  ‘What’s your purpose for this?’ As I’m making decisions, to have a clear vision and to be able to freely say no to things that are distractions – that’s been huge.”

She’s also been thrilled with how LEAD’s instructors fully embrace and model the servant-leadership model.  “As a leader, you’re not there to push people forward and be the slave driver, but rather to serve those you’re leading and empower them to be the most effective they can be.”  To be on the receiving end of that kind of leadership, from instructors willing to invest in her development, has been powerful and eye-opening for Alanna.

It’s a lesson she’ll take with her as she graduates from LEAD in the spring.  Alanna’s plan is to return to her profession, a more effective nurse and leader in her field.  She’s now convinced that leadership is a core skill that everyone needs to develop.

“You’re working with people in any profession,” she explains.  “And leadership is a part of every profession whether it’s a part of your title or not.  You have so much potential for influence no matter where you’re placed.  LEAD gives you specific tools and opportunities to practice that in a really safe space.”

Learn more about Columbia’s LEAD program.