Ira Mariano is the 2023 Student of the Year award winner, and is a graduate of Stenberg College’s Post-Graduate Diploma in Canadian Nursing.
Growing up in the northeastern part of Luzon, Philippines, Ira Mariano had a good life. She spent her childhood surrounded by her parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins: family meant everything to Ira. Many of her cousins became nurses, inspiring her to follow their lead. “I wanted to excel as a nurse and make a difference in people’s lives.”
Although Ira’s family didn’t have much, they had each other. She was always supported and encouraged by her parents. “Follow your dreams,” they would tell her, and she did. When she graduated from high school, her dedication and hard work were rewarded with a scholarship. It covered nearly all the expenses of her fouryear education to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. With her degree in hand, Ira passed the board exam and became a Registered Nurse (RN) in the Philippines, just like her cousins.
I wanted to excel as a nurse and make a difference in people’s lives.
Ira’s first job as an RN was at Premier Medical Center in her hometown. It marked the beginning of her journey into the world of nursing. Passionate about her patients, Ira didn’t just perform her duties, she went above and beyond, touching their hearts and lives. Ira was making a difference in her community, and she loved it. After a few years and always wanting to grow professionally, Ira began to explore nursing opportunities abroad. When she was hired as a Clinic Nurse in Malaysia, Ira was sad to leave her family but excited to expand her skill set.
Ira enjoyed life in Malaysia. She progressed as a nurse and was now wanting to grow her family. However, like one in six couples across the world, Ira and her husband faced fertility challenges. It can be an exhausting and emotional journey, and Ira was feeling defeated. She needed a change.
One night, while scrolling on Facebook, Ira came across Stenberg College’s Post-Graduate Diploma in Canadian Nursing program. The program prepares Internationally Educated Nurses (IENs) like Ira to become nurses in Canada. Ready for a challenge and wanting to give her mind something else to focus on, Ira enrolled. She and her husband packed their bags and embarked on a new journey, immigrating to Canada in October 2021. The bittersweet mix of excitement and sadness filled her heart as she started this new chapter.
START OF HER JOURNEY
Starting over was far from easy, especially in a foreign land where she knew almost no one except her husband. Stenberg College became one of Ira’s sources of support in Canada. While the prospect of attending face-to-face classes made her nervous, the presence of 15 other Filipino students brought her comfort. They faced similar challenges and situations, which helped them relate to one another and build strong friendships through their shared experiences. Ira made friends quickly.
I loved being an HCA because it was the first step of my journey to becoming a nurse in Canada.
BACK TO SCHOOL
The first 19 weeks of the program prepares students to become Registered Health Care Assistants (HCAs). “I loved being an HCA because it was the first step of my journey to becoming a nurse in Canada.”
Ira’s experience as an HCA played a crucial role in her adaptation to the Canadian healthcare system. Former colleague, Carissa Banting, LPN, says, “Ira is passionate and committed. She constantly provided safe and compassionate care to residents and their families.”
Working as an HCA while attending the program, Ira was able to earn while she learned. One classmate, Roxanne Velasco, commends her dedication, “Ira consistently maintained good grades in all subjects. She actively engaged in class discussions and activities, while being incredibly supportive and inclusive of others. Everyone respects her. Ira possesses innate leadership qualities. She strives to be a positive influence on everyone around her. I am very impressed by her maturity and determination. Juggling work, personal endeavours, and other responsibilities, Ira is a true superhero.”
Fellow Student of the Year nominee and colleague, Ann Stephanie Bombio, says, “Ira is an inspiration to us all. She never hesitates to offer help and guidance whenever it’s needed. Moreover, Ira is deeply passionate about her work and extremely goal-oriented, always giving her best to pursue her aspirations.”
Ira’s classmates became more than just friends, they became family.
Ira is passionate and committed. She constantly provided safe and compassionate care to residents and their families.
In addition to making friends for life, the program prepared Ira for the rigorous Canadian regulatory exams, including the Nursing Community Assessment Service (NCAS). The exceptional training in Stenberg’s state-of-the-art nursing labs replicated the Canadian healthcare settings that she would be tested on. During the simulation labs, Ira was able to practice different scenarios that enhanced her clinical judgement and confidence, preparing her for NCAS.
Ira’s hard work left a lasting impression on her instructors. One instructor shared, “Ira is an exceptional individual who consistently demonstrates an unwavering commitment to academic excellence. Her passion for learning, intellectual curiosity, and dedication to her studies is genuinely commendable. She goes above and beyond to complete assignments with exceptional quality.”
Another instructor added, “Her outstanding qualities extend well beyond the academic realm. She actively participates in various activities, taking on leadership roles and inspiring her peers to do the same. Ira possesses a remarkable sense of empathy and a genuine concern for the well-being of others. Her compassion and willingness to help others make her an outstanding role model for fellow students.” Ira offered support to her classmates and consistently provided them with encouragement.
Jenica Licerio, Stenberg’s Director of International Admissions, had this to say about her: “I have witnessed Ira’s growth from the very beginning. Despite facing numerous challenges on her journey, Ira has emerged successful and unfazed by any hurdles in achieving her goal. She demonstrates dedication and excitement while working toward her Canadian nursing license, always sharing her knowledge with others.”
I am blessed and thankful for my family and my husband. My success is not mine alone. I wouldn’t have achieved it without their support.
Ira not only excelled in the program but also in her clinical placements at Guildford Seniors Village and Sienna-Pacifica Retirement Residence. Ira smiles as she shares, “One of the most memorable moments I had was when one of my patients told me she appreciated the care I was providing. She said my care helped her feel stronger. I made a big difference in her life.” This is what Ira had dreamed of since she was a little girl – to be there for people and make a difference in their lives during their most vulnerable moments. “Every day, moments like that affirm that I’m living my dream as a nurse.”
The Stenberg program helped me every step of the way.
HARD WORK PAYS OFF
During her paid cooperative work experience at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, Ira completed her NCAS assessment. The program thoroughly prepared her for what the exam would look like, giving her the experience she needed in Canadian healthcare settings.
After the NCAS assessment, Ira was thrilled to learn that to become a nurse, she only had to complete a six-day transitional synchronized online course at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and 250 hours of transitional practice experience. Ira also had to take the US National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). In just two days, she received the exciting news that she had successfully passed the exam, meaning she had become eligible to be licensed as a Registered Nurse in Canada. Ira is now a Provisional Registered Nurse with the British Columbia College of Nurses and Midwives. “The Stenberg program helped me every step of the way.”
Approaching the end of her journey to becoming an RN in Canada, Ira smiles, “My classmates have been on this journey with me, the entire way. We have supported each other like a family.”
Like Wonder Woman, Ira is proof that “you are stronger than you believe, you have greater powers than you know.” With the guidance and support from Stenberg College, Ira has grown into a more self-assured individual. “I learned how to better advocate for myself and my patients.”
Ira’s dreams extend far beyond her own achievements. She plans to bring her whole family to Canada in hopes of reciprocating the love and support they provided to her. “I am blessed and thankful for my family and my husband. My success is not mine alone. I wouldn’t have achieved it without their support.” She is passionate about continually inspiring and encouraging other nurses to the best of her ability. The possibilities for this superhero are limitless.