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Algonquin College News

Alumna Kyla Cullain plans clients' next steps

March 1, 2018

For more alumni profiles, visit 50 Years of Stories. To share your story, visit here

When Kyla Cullain began her Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, the jobs she envisioned were straight out of primetime TV: bustling around an emergency room, or scrubbing in for a shift in the OR.

She certainly didn’t imagine she’d be running a construction company.

The path that led to the founding of BuildAble, a unique nurse-managed company specializing in accessible home and workplace renovations, began during her community health placement early in the four-year program.

”I fell in love with community (nursing). I never expected that to happen. We were part of a program called Leave the Pack Behind and it was encouraging people to quit smoking and do it the right way. We made a giant cigarette costume for one of our friends… and we made quite the splash here at the College walking around and encouraging people to quit smoking.

“When we had that community health placement, it opened up my eyes. It was this whole other world of nursing that I didn’t expect. It seemed bigger than everything — population health. You could help entire communities.”

Since graduating in 2008, Cullain has done just that. In her six years with Ottawa Public Health, she worked on communicable disease management and on infection control in long-term care facilities. As a volunteer, she has helped with disaster relief projects in Sri Lanka and Haiti. And since 2014, her company has been helping people with mobility issues overcome physical barriers where they live and work.

The idea for the company came when she left public health to pursue a Master of Nursing – which she approached with the same strong community focus.

During that time, by chance, she and her husband helped an older couple install a stairlift in their home. The project opened her eyes. “There was this whole psycho-social aspect (to the renovation) I’d never thought about.”

While there are any number of companies producing accessibility products, says Cullain, “the more I did my research, the more I realized there was no one approaching how to help people stay in their homes, or open up communities to be accessible, from a health-care perspective.”

Cullain says Algonquin College prepared her well for the surprising turns her career has taken. “It was a lot of work, it was tough, but we were so well-supported here our entire four years. It was an amazing journey.”

“The professors here were phenomenal. If there were any questions you had after class, if something didn’t quite make sense, they always took the time to make sure you were going to be set up to succeed wherever you went — whether within a hospital community, or starting your own business.”

And that support didn’t stop with graduation, Cullain says. “There was always this continuing engagement which was really lovely and really supportive. It was nice to know you could always go back to the professors. No matter how old you were, or how far along in your career you were, you’d have that ongoing support.”

Cullain counsels current nursing students not to restrict their options: “Have an open mind about where nursing can take you. The best part about this field, or trade, or profession … is that it can really take you wherever you want to go.

 “If you keep an open mind,” she advises, “you’ll see so many different parts of the health care system and how you can contribute. It’s pretty phenomenal.”

For more alumni profiles, visit 50 Years of Stories. To share your story, visit here