Raising cancer awareness: Practical Nursing student takes the conversation to the community


The choice to pursue nursing was decided early for Katherine Cornwall, a second-year Practical Nursing student. Taking personal experience and course material, she's embarked on a path to educate locally.

Practical Nursing student Katherine Cornwall doesn’t want to wait for the designated cancer awareness month or day to spark the conversation. She wants the conversation to start now.

The Welland native has taken the initiative to generate discussion of breast cancer awareness and disease prevention through educating and building local connections, hoping people bring it forward and continue the chain of dialogue.

“I feel friends or acquaintances educating and discussing with each other is [having] a huge impact,” she said. “Knowing our connections throughout the community is a vital role because we can use them for assistance.”

Cornwall comes from a family with a large nursing background and was introduced to the profession at a young age. Her mother, who works in infection control, acts as an advocate for health and disease prevention which inspired her to start early with promoting. Knowing those personally who have been diagnosed and affected also led her to take action.

As the youngest student in the program, Cornwall strives to be a leader among her classmates.

“It works really nicely that we can all get together – even if we’re having lunch – and have these discussions about clinical placements and how we can apply new knowledge to it,” she said. “I’ve been really inspired by other students too, so I try to take that leadership role and educate people as much as I can.”

Outside of her studies at NC, Cornwall is a Women to Women ambassador for the Canadian Cancer Society. She decided to become an ambassador due in part to her studies at Niagara College, with her professors and classes giving her inspiration to help make a meaningful difference.

“They [professors] have a lot of information on how to get involved they’ll share their personal experience that might influence you,” she said, noting that one of her professors is an ambassador as well. “These ladies and men that work in the College have inspiring outside lives that I want to participate in too.”

As an ambassador she educates, is a support network for those affected by cancer, and promotes self-exams and regular mammograms. Cornwall also has a donation page with funds helping her cause and the Canadian Cancer Society.

Cornwall was surprised by the fact that there are less than 2,000 ambassadors in Canada, which  pushed her to get involved in the movement. She encourages all of her colleagues to become ambassadors.

“It’s taught me to apply my knowledge from the school and it keeps me thinking on different ways I can incorporate what I’ve learned,” she said. “One course I loved was nursing theory, which spoke about the social determinacy of health and health promotion, and it’s such a large part of nursing that, as nurses, we need to be able to apply the health promotion to it.”

In addition to her role as ambassador, Cornwall works with a client at a long-term care home in Dunnville. The hope for her is to begin talking about behavioural techniques and how to approach someone with mental disabilities or developmental delay.

In a recent effort to open the conversation surrounding cancer, she helped launch a pink latte fundraiser at the Black Sheep Lounge in Welland with the shop’s owner, her boyfriend, Lucas Spinosa.

Having completed the first year of the two-year nursing program, Cornwall looks to stay in the area working as a registered practical nurse upon graduating before continuing the process in becoming a registered nurse (RN).

Cornwall’s donation page for the Canadian Cancer Society can be found at cancer.ca/womentowomen.


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