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Blues Coach Stepping Up in Crucial Role

Blues assistant coach Jenn Bodnar (at left with Blues guard Simrat Dosanjh and at right in her nurse scrubs) has switched focus from the sidelines to the front lines of public health.
Blues assistant coach Jenn Bodnar (at left with Blues guard Simrat Dosanjh and at right in her nurse scrubs) has switched focus from the sidelines to the front lines of public health.

Brent Mutis, CapU Sport Information & Compliance Officer

With the 2019-20 basketball season, and a trip to the CCAA national championship, fading like a mirage in the background, CapU women's basketball assistant coach Jenn Bodnar has traded the familiar blue of the team uniforms for blue hospital scrubs.

Bodnar just finished her sixth season on the Blues bench and helped guide the team to a 15-3 record plus a trip to the PACWEST title game at the end of February. But now the whole world is changed as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves and her full-time job has her contributing where it counts the most – as a registered nurse at New Westminster's Royal Columbian Hospital.

The 29-year-old has been on the job just about a year and though the work is challenging, it's especially rewarding right now given what's at stake for public health.

"I've always loved my job but it's nice to see everyone come together in the hospital," says the Agassiz, B.C. native. "We're all supporting each other, finding that team feel. Like being on a basketball team."

That team atmosphere is only enhanced because of all the extra measures each staff member is undertaking to ensure they stay healthy while in the midst of the pandemic response.

"We now have to wear PPE (personal protective equipment) at all times when in the hospital," says Bodnar. "Before, we'd only wear that if we were going to deal with (a specific case). Now, we're in PPE at all times… you're sweating and hot and sometimes you feel like you can't breathe, but it's good."

Bodnar says the decision to postpone all elective surgeries has reduced the case load on the hospital and that has allowed the doctors and nurses to focus on the most pressing cases.

Focusing on her work duties has filled the void that was created so abruptly for Bodnar in early March when the decision was made to cancel the CCAA national women's basketball championships. CapU would have been heading to Nanaimo as the second qualifier out of the PACWEST conference.

"It was super, super disappointing; I'm still disappointed for the girls, especially the seniors," says the former Blues guard and two-time PACWEST All-Star. "They worked their whole career to get the chance. To have them not get the opportunity…. I just remember the sadness in the gym (the day we found out). There were tears and every emotion you can feel.

"I'm still sad for the girls but I don't know if it's really set in yet because I have been busy with work."

Despite their disappointment, the players haven't forgotten about their assistant coach who is now on the front line in the fight against COVID-19.

"All the support all my players have shown me, sending messages saying 'We're here for you,' 'Do you need groceries?' They're checking in on me."

Hospital staff also appreciate the community's recognition each evening at 7 p.m. when emergency vehicles line up with lights and sirens on for a procession down East Columbia Street in New Westminster right past Royal Columbian while local residents bang pots and pans from their doorsteps.

"The nurses and doctors are out on the roads every day and watching from the windows," says Bodnar. "Under normal circumstances, I think that we kind of fly under the radar so it's nice to see that people support you and show their appreciation."

Bodnar's basketball background has prepared her well for the work environment she now finds herself in. The skills and resiliency earned through her athletic efforts come to the forefront when confronted with today's challenges.

"Basketball was actually a help in me even getting into the nursing program (at BCIT)," says Bodnar. "In interviews, we were asked to give examples of time management, leadership and things like that. The majority of examples I gave were from basketball.

"Not that any of us have prepared for this, but I'm a nurse and this is what we signed up for."

The unprecedented situation unfolding today calls for exceptional determination and bravery from the doctors and nurses in our hospitals. In coping with the obstacles presented by COVID-19, it's a comfort to know professionals like Jenn Bodnar are rising to the occasion.