While it may sometimes be true that the best and brightest tend to grow up and leave their small communities, one Ponoka graduate’s career path has brought her back home.
Born and raised in Ponoka, nursing student Mackenzy Hatala, 23, has made a return to her hometown.
Hatala is currently working as an undergrad at the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre and the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury.
Although she originally considered going into occupational health and safety or engineering because of her love of mathematics, she was steered towards nursing by her family, and a job that made her fall in love with health care.
While her father’s side of the family is predominantly employed in oil and gas and farming, her mother’s side has a strong lean to the health care field.
“They definitely rooted me in that direction and I couldn’t thank them enough,” said Hatala.
She discovered a passion for health care after working as a health care aide at Seasons Ponoka, which was called Sunrise Village at the time.
“I didn’t realize how cool it was to work with that range of people.”
She added she loves the work and how she can see how her efforts can have a direct, positive impact on the people she is caring for.
“That’s kind of what triggered me,” she said.
She grew up in rural settings in and around Ponoka, first on an acreage near Morningside, and then on property behind the Stampede grounds where they kept horses. Her family then bought a large parcel of land north west of the Ponoka cemetery.
She graduated from Ponoka Secondary Campus in 2015 and attended St. Augustine from kindergarten to Grade 8.
People in Ponoka may remember her most from her involvement in sports, as she was an avid athlete, playing volleyball, basketball and participated in track and field.
She also worked at the Ponoka Golf Club during university and had a student placement with the town’s public works department.
She started her education with a year in kinesiology at Red Deer College before pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BScN) from the University of Alberta.
Although initially she wanted to experience life in a larger centre, after spending a year in Red Deer and then living in Edmonton, she found city life wasn’t for her and she longed for the slower pace of small town life.
Her program included clinicals and practicums, but her final preceptorship landed her in Ponoka.
She’d been hoping to be placed at the Centennial Centre but ended up at the general hospital instead, which she admits she was nervous about.
She had a difficult placement in acute care at the University of Alberta hospital where she says she didn’t really click with her instructor and it made her nervous to try working in acute care again.
Her preceptorship was 350 hours, which she mostly spent in the emergency department.
Hatala says her preceptors at the Ponoka hospital, Danielle Both and Melanie Dudar, were both fantastic.
“I ended up loving it — they just totally switched my view point … I definitely lucked out with my preceptors.”
Hatala was hired as an undergrad in December, 2020, splitting her time between the Ponoka hospital and Centennial Centre. After graduating on May 7, she will begin working part time as an RN at the Centennial Centre, so she’ll still be able to pick up casual shifts at the hospital as well.
“We are so lucky to have Mackenzy working in Ponoka,” said Both.
“She is very enthusiastic to learn and easily adapts to new patient scenarios while providing quality patient care to all,” she said.
“(Mackenzy) is the first to volunteer to do any task and is a great member of our team, enjoyed by both patients and staff. I’d happily let her care for one of my loved ones in hospital — I have no doubt they would be in the best of hands.
“We are looking forward to working with her as a Registered Nurse in Ponoka.”
Hatala says she enjoys the different kinds of work she does with patients at both the Centennial Centre and at the hospital.
Working in adult psychiatry at the Centennial Centre, she gets to see the positive impact on a patient mentally, and when she is working at the general hospital, she is supporting patients physically and emotionally, she says.
“I really like going back-and-forth between the two … it’s a nice break-up,” said Hatala.
“I work with awesome staff at both places.”
The ability to share something with the patient is what she loves about nursing and meeting different people, hearing their stories and continually learning is her favourite parts, she says.
Hatala says her capacity for compassion has definitely grown as she has entered nursing, as it’s a completely selfless profession, where the only thing that matters is the patient.
Hatala says she would be remiss if she didn’t acknowledge the support of her parents Jennifer and Brian Hatala and her boyfriend Justin Mueller, as well as many other close friends and family who encouraged her and helped her get where she is today.
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