IN PROFILE: Yolanda Babenko-Mould

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By Megan Radford
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Nurses are political activists for patients
 
 
 
The hospital emergency room smells of death and disease. Patients are crammed two to a bed, some even on the floor. Entire families sleep beside their sick loved ones. Nurses pass out food and water bought with their own wages because the hospital cannot afford to provide the patients with meals. The university hospital in Kigali was one of the places University of Western Ontario professor Yolanda Babenko-Mould visited during her three trips to Rwanda. The nurses, she says, have to be creative with scarce supplies.
 
In a cafeteria, deep in a sciences building at Western, she explains how her experiences there made her consider “how people are resilient and courageous and hopeful” in the face of “a reality of struggle and tears.”  It is this mindset she brought back to share with her students. Babenko-Mould, an assistant professor in the Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing, teaches three classes to undergraduate and postgraduate students. She seems particularly excited about a course called “Promoting the Health of Communities.” Her face lights up as she explains how the students are working in homeless shelters and other community care-giving centres as part of the curriculum. Babenko-Mould says it is fulfilling to watch her students’ perspectives change through the course. In her classes,
 
Babenko-Mould hopes to communicate that nursing is not just about medicine. When a nurse is advocating for a patient’s health, they are involved in political action, she notes.  “It’s about showing them that they have already been influencing change,” she says. 
 
Babenko-Mould’s own academic journey started with a three-year nursing program at Fanshawe College. She began practicing nursing after her graduation in 1993. At the time she was living in the Ottawa area with her husband, but her dream was to go back to school.  It was her husband, Graham Mould, who gave her the push she needed to accomplish that dream. 
 
In February of 1998 the couple were visiting Babenko-Mould’s ailing mother at St. Joseph’s Health Care in London. Mould, a sergeant with the Canadian military, remembers his wife watching a student nurse and saying, “I wish that had been me.” Mould told his wife he had to go out for a coffee. When he returned, he was covered in snow and holding a brown envelope containing an application for her bachelor’s degree. Mould knew his wife had the drive and ambition to help her achieve a lifelong dream of attending Western.  “Those are qualities you just can’t ignore in Yolanda,” he says. “I knew she had the ability to succeed.”
 
Babenko-Mould completed her bachelor of science in nursing in 2000, her master’s in nursing in 2002 and her doctor of nursing education this summer, all at Western. She started as a teaching assistant during her master’s program and began lecturing at Western in 2002. Babenko-Mould credits her success to teachers and professors that inspired her.
 
One professor who has been instrumental in her education is Carroll Iwasiw. It was Iwasiw who involved her with Rebuilding Health in Rwanda. “I do see a great deal of potential in her,” Iwasiw says. 
 
Now that she is a professor herself, Babenko-Mould hopes to inspire her own students.  “I like seeing the potential in people and helping them develop,” she says, adding, “They have so much to give.”
 
Still, Babenko-Mould isn’t finished with Rwanda. In December she will return for the fourth time with two other Western nursing professors. The team will work at enhancing the training for nursing teachers at the Kigali Health Institute. She hopes their research will improve nursing in Rwanda. “It takes time, but one person who is more highly educated can provide more quality health care and be a leader down the road,” she says.
 
Did you know?
Yolanda Babenko-Mould …
… and her husband restore old Army jeeps. Hers is a military ambulance from the 1970s.
… has eight nephews to keep her busy.
… is a member of the prestigious Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau.
… was a part of a team that won third place for their spam dinner at a benefit for Wounded Warriors.
… lives just around the corner from her mother, where Babenko-Mould and her husband can visit often.
 

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