by Meredith Dault
January 27, 2012
Fatmah Fallatah came to Canada from Saudi Arabia in 2008 with a King Abdullah scholarship to do a Masters degree in Nursing. Fallatah first did a six month intensive English language training course in Toronto, while looking at which institute to do her Masters. Already trained as a nurse, with lots of real-world experience, she applied to a number of graduate programs -- including the Master’s of Nursing Science program at Queen’s.
“I chose Queen’s for the name,” she explains with a smile. But it wasn’t the only reason. She was impressed by how responsive the university was to her questions. “One day I called and asked a question, and they transferred my call to the graduate coordinator and she answered my question so nicely!” she laughs. “While at another university I had applied to, I was struggling to get help. I had to go there in person and ask for help to answer my question!”
Before she was even accepted into the program, Fallatah says she’d had the chance to speak to a faculty member about her research. “And in less than five days I got my acceptance,” she says, “it was the first acceptance that I got from any university. Queen’s was very quick and good.”
Now in the second year of a small, thesis-streamed program (she is one of three students!), Fallatah, who started in 2010, says she’s had a great experience so far. Rather than training in a hospital setting and pursuing hands-on learning, Fallatah’s work is research-based. The two year program is built around course work in the first year, and independent research in the second.
Her research is specifically geared around looking at the the social support needs available to the family members of people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. “My father was diagnosed with it twenty years ago,” Fallatah explains. “I am interested in how families handle this disabling condition, especially when the person who has the disease is the person providing financially for the family.”
She says while there has been a lot of research on how rheumatoid arthritis affects individuals, there has been little work looking at how it impacts family members. Fallatah plans to pursue interview-based research with people she’s connected with through branches of the Canadian Arthritis Society in both Kingston and Toronto. “It will be interested to see what they say,” she muses.
Fallatah, who commutes to Kingston by bus from her home base in Toronto, says she knew it was important for her to pursue a graduate degree. “You don’t want to stay and waste your time doing the same work over and over again. You want to progress and continue your education. You see things you want to change in the future.”
And says she is fortunate to be in Canada on a generous scholarship from the government of Saudi Arabia. When she finishes her degree in August 2012, she’ll either return to the same hospital in Saudi Arabia where she had previously worked, only in a new capacity, or else she will embark on a PhD here in Canada -- ideally in nursing, but with a specialization in chronic illnesses or cancer.
Though she still isn’t keen on Canadian winters (“my first winter… oh my god, it was so bad! I didn’t like it at all” she laughs), she’s happy with her decision to come to Queen’s. She likes how independent she’s been allowed to be within the program and is grateful for the support she’s had from everyone on campus, from her supervisor to the university administration. “It’s not like you are just a student. At Queen’s, it really seems like they care about their students!”