Sept. 29, 2020

Learning through Leadership: Insights gained from a past president of CNA

Q&A: Dr. Claire Betker, MN'91, 2020 Marguerite Schumacher Memorial Alumni Lecture speaker
Dr. Claire Betker MN'91 Schumacher Speaker 2020
Dr. Claire Betker MN'91 Schumacher Speaker 2020

We are pleased to present Dr. Claire Betker, MN’91 and past president of the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) for the Marguerite Schumacher Memorial Alumni Lecture on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

With her talk "Learning through Leadership: Insights gained from a past president of CNA”, she will reflect on the learnings from her tenure as president and explore nursing contributions past, present and future. She will also delve into how to cultivate empowerment and leadership among nurses in order to continue to change health and health care around the world. 

Dr. Betker has been registered nurse in Manitoba for more than 40 years. She began her career in southwestern Manitoba at a rural single-nurse public health office and has worked in public health, home care and primary health care in a variety of positions and levels at a local, regional, provincial and national level. 

She is currently the Scientific Director of the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health, hosted by St Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

In 2016, Alumni Connections featured an interview about what makes a leader: excerpts of that interview follow.

What made you choose to return to university to do a graduate degree?
When I graduated with my undergraduate degree from the University of Manitoba I intended to return for a Masters degree; it just depended on when. Eleven years and three children later I attended a workshop in Winnipeg where Dr. Maureen Leahey was talking about Family Systems Nursing.

I was a front line manager in Home Care at the time and what I heard that day resonated deeply with me and I could see application not only to my own practice in rural Manitoba but how it could assist my team and the families and communities we were working with. Eighteen months later I was in Calgary and starting classes.”

Can you recount something memorable that changed your thinking/direction/attitude while working on your MN?

The two years I spent in Calgary at the University of Calgary was all very memorable for me. I had high expectations of the program going in and it exceeded those expectations in every way. The experience stretched me professionally and personally. I can honestly say that I have used and continue to use what I learned in those two years every day.

The classmates I found myself studying with were exceptional and together we were able to establish a culture of collaboration, sharing, mutual support and growth. A culture I look for and work towards today.”

How has your degree helped shape where you are now in nursing?
Having the master’s degree in nursing definitely opened doors to opportunities that would not have been open to me otherwise. But what shaped me the most was the incredible learning that I experienced and watched others experience. That has instilled deeply in me a commitment to lifelong learning.

The level of inquiry fostered, the analytical skills expected, and the advanced practice skills we were able to acquire have profoundly shaped my perspective and my actions since.”

To register for the 2020 Marguerite Schumacher Memorial Alumni Lecture Tuesday, Oct. 6 (5 to 6:15 p.m. MT), visit