June 2, 2022

Class of 2022: Perseverance through health challenges, a difficult program and COVID pays off for new grad

Tobin Haas graduates with Bachelor of Nursing degree, aims to work with sick children at the hospital where he received care
Tobin Haas
Courtesy Tobin Haas

Tobin Haas is definitely not the only UCalgary Nursing student who has contemplated quitting the arduous journey that is the nursing program, but he may have encountered more obstacles than most. I’m sounding cliché here, but nursing school was HARD!” says Haas now.

It really forced me to push myself out of my comfort zone and grow. The theory and all the clinical work that came with it made me second guess nursing and I thought multiple times throughout the program: ‘I want to drop out. I’m done. This is too much.

No one would fault Haas for his doubts considering his path to university. When he was only two, he had emergency brain surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation, and that was just the beginning. His cancer returned three years later and again at the age of nine: over this entire time, three brain surgeries, 20 months of chemotherapy and 63 radiation treatments were all completed at SickKids in Toronto, where Haas and his family live. But he hung in to pursue a dream.

Young Tobin

Courtesy of Tobin Haas

My desire to become a nurse started back in middle school,” he explains. “I liked science and I wanted to do health care. Because of my experience as a patient at SickKids, I knew that I wanted patient interaction."

There was never really an ‘aha’ moment, but rather a slow realization that because of the care I received, I wanted to be able to give back and pay it forward.

Haas did not initially apply to UCalgary Nursing because he knew his grades were low for admission. “That changed when I met (former nursing dean) Dianne Tapp at a 2017 alumni event I attended with my mom. Dr. Tapp heard my story and a few days later, sent an email letting me know I could apply via the diverse qualifications route. A couple months later, I received the green check mark and package confirming my enrolment!

After all he had gone through, COVID was perhaps a walk in the park for Haas; he only had one term of online courses and worked as a personal support worker in Ontario during the summer of 2020. It was what came in his final year (2021) that was the next hurdle.

In his second-to-last term, Haas says, he finally had a paediatric placement. “That was the light at the end of the tunnel for me. It came with a big learning curve, but I felt right at home. I also got my final preceptorship at Alberta Children’s Hospital.

Sadly, continues Haas, “This is when the biggest challenge started for me. After a turbulent term, I was told I had failed and would have to redo my preceptorship. As I’m sure it would be for anyone, it was a major blow to my self-confidence and general well-being.

Tobin during his placement at SickKids inpatient cardiology unit

Tobin during his placement at SickKids inpatient cardiology unit

Courtesy of Tobin Haas

Add to that a routine echocardiogram where a large tumour was discovered in his heart. I was completely asymptomatic so this obviously came as a huge shock to myself, my family and my friends. After a long couple weeks of tests, the lone tumour became metastatic cancer. I was told that I could have my summer, but that I would have to have open heart surgery in the fall. My response to all of this was ‘Well, that’s annoying.’” 

If you haven’t already figured it out, Haas is a believer that things happen for a reason and there was a greater plan for him. And there was. He remained in Toronto and, with co-ordination from a friend at SickKids, the hospital itself, the faculty and Haas, he landed a placement on the SickKids inpatient cardiology unit from January to April of this year to complete his degree. “I absolutely loved it,” Haas says.

It was surreal to me to be able to be a care provider in the same place where I received care, nearly 20 years later.

Haas will work this summer as a head nurse for a camp run by a childhood family friend. No surprise that he hopes to return to SickKids, preferably on the cardiology unit, eventually working in the NICU or cardiac CCU as an RN. Nutrition is also an interest. 

“I want to examine how we can use food and lifestyle to improve prevention and care for our patients and clients.

Don’t expect Haas to linger in Canada, however. “I want to explore other locations; I want to visit Australia and the southern United States, maybe do travel nursing, before making a decision about moving,” he says. “I am miserable with the cold!

Entrepreneurial UCalgary grads make an impact in business, health care, culture, law, education and more. Read more stories about Class of 2022 students.