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From Romania with love

Nursing graduates find happiness and new careers in St. John's

Student Life

By Marcia Porter

Can you imagine spending 10 hours a day, five days a week, in a classroom and working on a hospital floor with your spouse, then going home to care for two young children who are in need of dinner, homework help and play, bath and snuggle time?

And all this while you still have a ton of studying to do?

Young woman and man stand arm in arm in the learning resource lab at the School of Nursing
Carmen Antoce and Paul Bulai have spent the past two years in school together.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

That’s the sort of schedule new graduates Paul Bulai and Carmen Antoce have kept over the past two years as fast-track bachelor of nursing (BN) students in Memorial University’s School of Nursing.

“It was hard, but it was good,” said Mr. Bulai. “Even when we worked 10 hours together we still had time for a half hour here and there, random moments that you would not expect.”

He has recently accepted a position in community health in St. John’s, while Ms. Antoce will work in cardiology in the Health Sciences Centre.

A good life

The couple arrived in St. John’s from Bucharest four years ago, persuaded by Romanian friends in the city that they could have a good life here.

“They convinced us this is a good place,” said Mr. Bulai. “They said they are very happy and we wanted to give it a try. It was definitely a good move. We were okay in Romania, but we are definitely happier here.

“We were told St. John’s is a family place for kids,” he added. “There are many opportunities and you will find good people here. That was always stressed.”

Mr. Bulai was a physiotherapist in Bucharest with a master’s in rehabilitative therapy before moving to St. John’s. Ms. Antoce had completed her degree in engineering and was pursuing a career in that field, but she wasn’t disappointed to leave it all behind.

She’d been thinking about nursing on and off since childhood, and especially after giving birth to her children.

“I realized I should have been a nurse by then, and I continued thinking this way,” she said. “I really wanted to have a moment in my life when I could do nursing.”

Juggling challenges

Moving to St. John’s provided just that. Ms. Antoce applied to School of Nursing — and so did her husband.

“I believe he secretly wanted to take a break from working in massage therapy and join me in nursing, be together for 10 hours a day and have some fun with that,” she laughed. “He never knew what he was getting into.”

“I’ve been practising in Canada as a registered massage therapist and nursing felt really close to that,” said Mr. Bulai. “It helped me connect with the patients I really enjoyed working with.”

Juggling family life and an intense program was a challenge. The couple became the ultimate tag team, working out a schedule so they could switch from parenting to studying, while still enjoying a special family night on Fridays.

“It made us stronger as we had support from each other,” said Ms. Antoce. “We would get childish and competitive at times, but then we would realize if one of us is struggling, then both of us are struggling.”

The two credit a friendly, supportive class and faculty with helping them through the rough times.

“Every one of our peers and instructors was encouraging,” said Ms. Antoce. ”Our class was a great group and supportive. However, we did get the questions, like ‘How do you do this?’”


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