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Media Release
Release Date: March 27, 2019

As Camosun’s new Alex & Jo Campbell Centre for Health and Wellness takes shape at Interurban, long-time continuing care and practical nursing instructor Vara Hagreen reflects on the changes in the health field over the past decade and looks ahead to an exciting new chapter of health and human services education at Camosun.

“There’s been a big shift to interdisciplinary education,“ she says. “I think one of the great benefits of the new building will be the opportunity to delve into that even more.”

Hagreen started teaching at Camosun in 2009. Previously, she worked as a registered nurse in labour, delivery and post partum in Calgary. Looking for a new challenge, Camosun’s focus on applied learning attracted her attention. “I’d moved to Victoria and was working as a community resource nurse,” she says. “I came to Camosun for an interview, got work right away and never looked back—I just love it.”

During her time at Camosun, she’s seen big changes in the health field and with evolving educational best practices. “We have a lot more knowledge of the importance of active learning and experiential learning experiences,” she says. “I think that increasingly students have an expectation that it’s no longer the old style of ‘sage on the stage’ approach with the teacher at the front of the room lecturing. Students are much more engaged and taking charge of their learning and we’re facilitating more activities and research and interdisciplinary group work, helping them to develop critical thinking and hands-on skills, assisted by all sorts of new technology.”

As Hagreen prepares for the move into the new health centre at Interurban, she expects these trends—and Camosun’s ability to be at the forefront of sector leadership—to gain momentum. “We’re going to have the ability to configure our new classrooms to teach and learn in new and innovative ways,” she says. “With this flexibility, we can move things around more easily to incorporate more of the experiential, more active learning.”

The new building will feature integrated collaboration spaces and advanced lab facilities. “I’m teaching a lot of technical and non-technical skills for nurses and to have that whole upper level with new lab spaces is going to be incredible,” she says. “We’ll have the ability for our students to engage in more deliberate practice, practicing their technical skills over and over with feedback and reflection, in the simulation facilities, collaboratively with other disciplines. There’s a demand for that out in the workforce, and we’re preparing them by teaching them that approach here safely so they will be ready.”

Looking ahead, Hagreen anticipates that the centre’s focus on holistic outcomes will have a huge impact in the region. “The plan is that by using a more experiential learning through simulation activities that it will ultimately increase patient safety out in the community,” she says. “I expect to see in acute care, home care, and in residential care facilities that there will be ultimately be a safer health care environment that will impact our community as a whole.”

Hagreen loves teaching at Camosun with a campus culture that encourages new ideas and collaboration. “I teach in the same building now where I was student back in the 1980s taking university transfer courses,” she says .”There’s actually a plaque outside my door honouring one of the most influential teachers I ever had—Lesley Ashcroft who taught me creative writing.” She notes that the learning journey is not a linear process, and that a holistic education draws upon the wisdom and experiences of many disciplines. “Camosun has always been really supportive of students and of faculty, and whether it’s creative writing or practical nursing, we’re exposed to so many opportunities for interdisciplinary learning and collaboration.”

As a teacher, she hopes to inspire a passion for learning in her students and prepare them for a successful career after graduation. “With applied learning, we’ve hoping to give them more tools in their toolbox,” she says. “Practicing skills gives you this kind of ‘muscle memory’ so that when the situation happens in real life you’ll be ready. It’s about bridging that gap between the classroom and the clinic.”

This is part of a series of profiles of alumni and students from Camosun’s School of Health and Human Services, in support of the Together for Health campaign for The Alex & Jo Campbell Centre for Health and Wellness.


Ivan Watson
Marketing & Communications Strategist
Camosun College
250-418-0700 |

Vara Hagreen
Vara Hagreen

Last updated: November 12, 2019 9:48 am

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