Para snowboarder Sarah Anne Cormier on fast track in nursing career

“Patience and determination are a common thread in sports and nursing''

KINGSTON, Ont. – Canadian NextGen Para snowboarder Sarah Anne Cormier is thankful the residents of Kingston, Ont. are respecting physical distancing and stay-at-home guidelines. Combined with the city’s early focus on senior residences, this has minimized the number of COVID-19 cases in the region and kept a stable workload for health care workers such as herself.

Cormier has recently started her career as a nurse at the Kingston General Hospital and is about to celebrate her first-year anniversary as a Queen’s University graduate.

Cormier action

The 28-year-old is working full-time at the ICU unit and gaining loads of on-the-job experience. That includes attending to one COVID-19 patient, courtesy of some ventilator training provided by the hospital. 

As of Monday afternoon, there have been 59 COVID-19 cases in the Kingston area with 56 resolved and no deaths. Sixteen health care workers have been infected.

“Kingston has been lucky,” she said. “I helped take care of one person who was intubated because our hospital has been training nurses for treating patients with ventilators in case COVID-19 got a little bit out of control. 

“That’s the great thing about nursing. You never stop learning. I’ve experienced so many different situations that my skills have greatly improved. It’s truly a labour of love for me.”

Cormier, who grew up and learned to snowboard on the hills near Collingwood, Ont., was born with complications from amniotic band syndrome and is missing her left leg below the knee and has various finger amputations on both of her hands. She has undergone seven surgeries to deal with complications from the syndrome.

“Understanding what it’s like being in the hospital and going through so many tests can benefit my patients and can provide a different perspective on how they are feeling sometimes.”

Her initial inspiration for her profession was her mother, also a nurse. In addition, during all four years of her undergrad, she worked at a camp for kids with a disability which really solidified her decision to pursue nursing. In her fourth year it was a professor who convinced her to target critical care rather than pediatrics.
She is overwhelmed with the admiration the country has shown to frontline workers during this pandemic. 

“It’s pretty nice, not only for nurses, but all frontline workers, first responders, that the public is recognizing them,” she said. “Most of us did pick this career but we never thought there would be a deadly pandemic happening. So, it’s important that people recognize that we are putting ourselves and our families potentially at risk just by taking care of the public and their families.”

And, even with all the action on the hospital front, Cormier is still training to hopefully compete at the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing. This past winter she finished in the top-8 in her four World Cup races.

The Para snowboard team was forced home after one race at the World Cup Final in Norway on March 11.

“The team has adapted well to the current situation,” she said. “We have weekly virtual meetings where we lay out workout sessions. It’s just weird to do most of it all inside and not being on the hill.”
Cormier says being a high-performance athlete has been beneficial to her medical career.

“Patience and determination are a common thread in sports and nursing,” she said. “You have to keep working to get your patients better.”