A doctorate at 60 and still exploring

October 7, 2010

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Shona Johansen has done something surprising for a newly minted graduate of the education faculty’s doctoral program in educational leadership: she’s retired.

"I have indeed," laughs the amiable nurse educator, who spent the first half of her career nursing, mostly in isolated Northern B.C. communities, and the last half teaching nursing at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Williams Lake.

"I turned 60 in January," she says, "and after 37 years I thought that’s enough." People who know Johansen will believe that when they see it. This is a woman who’s always in motion, always working, always learning.

Before she was 30 she had five diplomas, degrees and certificates, including her RN designation from St. Paul’s Hospital School of Nursing, a northern nurse practitioner’s ticket from the University of Alberta and a BSN from UVic.

In her early ’40s, she juggled family and teaching during the week with a 600-km round-trip commute every weekend for two years to earn her MEd. through SFU’s distance-learning program via TRU’s Kamloops campus.

And when she heard SFU’s EdD program was being offered through the College of New Caledonia in Prince George, a mere 500-km round-trip from her Williams Lake home, she jumped at the opportunity.

Her secret: "It was just patience and perseverance," she says. "You just do your courses and get your thesis organized and get it done. I’m very fortunate to have a very supportive family and I just did it."

Johansen’s doctorate focused on cultural and safety issues related to Aboriginal student success, an interest that dates back to her days nursing in towns with large First Nations communities.

Her recent publications and consulting work focus on rural nursing curriculum development, remote nursing practice guidelines, the need for national standardization of nurse practitioner education and recruitment of First Nations BSN students.

As for retiring, she admits, "I am doing some contract work," for which her doctorate will be useful.

"But the value of getting it is not just the knowledge it gives you. It’s also what it teaches you about how to explore things," says Johansen.

"The important thing is to keep exploring."


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florence flynn

Wonderful article. You are always an inspiration, Shona.

Have a great "retirrement"

Erin Smith Friesen

One of my greatest, most influential mentors...

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