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How a flexible learning environment transformed this nurse into an industry leader

Athabasca University’s open learning approach caters to working professionals offering the flexibility to balance education with life’s demands

Leanne Bulmer (middle) with her two daughters.

Created for “Athabasca

In a world where continuous learning and career advancement are paramount, the thought of returning to school, especially as an established professional, can be daunting. The demands of work, family and personal commitments can create barriers that make pursuing higher education seem like an elusive dream. However, Athabasca University (AU) is redefining how students approach education. This fully online school has disrupted the educational landscape with its innovative and flexible, open learning environment.

Passion for healthcare and leadership

In healthcare, nurses are the unsung heroes, tirelessly working to improve the well-being of individuals and communities. One nurse in particular, Leanne Bulmer, embarked on a journey to enhance her nursing skills and become a leader in her field.

“I have always felt passionate about healthcare,” Bulmer says. “From my undergraduate degree in community health science to my bachelor’s degree in nursing—every step of my education has added to my understanding of healthcare. Coupled with that, I have always found myself drawn to leadership roles.”

Her journey as a nurse in Vancouver ignited a realization—an MBA could be the missing piece of the puzzle, aligning her nursing expertise with her leadership aspirations.

Bulmer saw the potential in bridging the worlds of healthcare and business to make informed decisions and provide insightful leadership. “Healthcare has often had leaders with health backgrounds and leaders with business backgrounds, but I saw potential in having both—being able to frame decision making and provide leadership with the background of a nurse and education in business.”

Balancing act

Bulmer’s journey through the MBA program at Athabasca University was nothing short of an adventure. During her studies, she and her partner got married, moved to Montana, welcomed two children and travelled extensively, all while maintaining a full-time job. The flexibility offered by Athabasca University’s internationally accredited business school allowed her to balance these responsibilities seamlessly.

“The AU MBA allowed me to do all of that without compromising my education. It was certainly not easy, but it was so helpful that I could log into classwork when I had time so I never missed a deadline. Throughout the program, students were always aware of who they could reach out to if needed to discuss coursework or request assistance. I always felt supported.”

The AU advantage

Dr. Alex Clark, president of Athabasca University, offers valuable insights into how this research university has transformed the educational landscape, particularly for professionals seeking to enhance their skills and knowledge.

“At AU, we realize many of our students are busy because they often balance full-time work, families and other life obligations. Nurses like Bulmer are a good example and one that I’m very familiar with as a nurse myself,” Dr. Clark explains.

Dr. Alex Clark, president of Athabasca University

AU’s approach is centred on the understanding that life is a delicate balancing act. To accommodate this reality, AU offers a uniquely flexible educational experience, allowing students to learn at their own pace, in their preferred location, and in a manner that aligns with their individual preferences.

The university’s open learning model empowers professionals and any learner 16 years or older to pursue education in their communities at their own pace and in a manner that suits their unique circumstances. “We serve our learners on their terms, not expecting them to come to us on ours.”

When nurses have access to education, they provide better care. “And that’s a real benefit for the healthcare system and patients, to have highly educated professionals not just to provide care, but to organize the systems,” Dr. Clark emphasizes. Education is the cornerstone of progress in healthcare, and AU recognizes the evolving needs of Canada’s landscape. “Healthcare needs change over time, and our healthcare education has to change as well,” he says.

The future of education lies in its adaptability to the unique needs of learners. AU’s commitment to flexibility and excellence is not only transforming the lives of professionals like Bulmer but also shaping the future of professional development in many sectors, one flexible and accessible opportunity at a time.

Learn more about Athabasca University and the programs offered

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