Helping people has always come naturally to Dr. Wendy Renault ’15, ’12. Growing up in Brockville, Ontario, the doorbell would ring at all times of day (and night) with people seeking help from her father, a minister at the church just next door. He never turned anyone away, and his dedication to serving others inspired Renault to pursue a similar goal.
Although she had a master’s degree in anthropology, nonprofit groups were scarce in the 1970s and Renault had to find another way to serve. She decided to pursue nursing, first by way of in-patient mental health, then as a visiting nurse providing home healthcare, and eventually managing home care. However, it was her clinical teaching experience with the Practical Nursing With Aboriginal Communities program that helped her discover a love of teaching and led her to Walden.
Wanting to teach nursing full time, Renault was turned down for several jobs in the industry before she realized a nursing degree would be necessary. At first, it seemed she’d finally hit a wall that her ambition couldn’t break down.
“I was over 50 years old, and part of me was thinking, 'I can’t go back to school because I’m too old. I don’t know how it’s done anymore,’ ” she recalls. “At the time, I didn’t know how to text, and I really wasn’t good at e-mailing. So how could I do anything school-related online?”
But then she talked to an enrollment advisor at Walden, who not only helped her pull together and complete all the required paperwork for her application but also provided support and encouragement during the process. “He told me that I was definitely capable of doing it. His belief in me was the push I needed to take the leap,” she says. “Recalling that now just kind of makes me laugh. I’ve come so far.”
Renault enrolled in the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) 36-month program in 2009, and she saw the positive effects on her work immediately. “I thought I understood the nursing system,” she says. “Then I started my MSN courses and realized how much I didn’t know.”
This was especially true in understanding how each action or change—admitting a patient to the hospital or setting them up with home healthcare—affects other parts of the healthcare system. “I learned how essential it is for nurses to understand the theory and the consequences behind what we do with our patients and how we handle certain situations,” she says.
It was at her commencement celebration in 2012 that Renault began to realize her education might not be finished. Dr. Andrea Lindell, associate dean for the School of Nursing, spoke with her that weekend and encouraged her to continue her journey with a doctoral degree. With family support, she began the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program later that year, graduating once again in 2015.
“Just as I was finishing my practicum hours, a job opportunity came up that presented a different way of looking at home care and what home care can do,” she says. The program, Health Links, looks at people who have frequent or complex health needs and how their needs can be met by the most appropriate provider. As a care coordinator, she gets to make a difference in people’s lives every day.
Renault is now looking to the future—especially for more ways to bring aid to the rural and high-poverty area she serves in Ontario, including Bridges Out of Poverty, a community support program that provides strategies for getting out of poverty.
“Walden taught me an incredible amount about nursing, healthcare, education, and the necessity of making positive social change, both professionally and personally,” Renault says.