Forest Bihun juggles USask nursing studies with serving as a volunteer firefighter, and training for major weightlifting competitions. (Photo: Submitted)

USask nursing student focused on homework, health and helping others

Forest Bihun wakes up at 5:30 every morning to get in an early workout before he attends classes at the College of Nursing on the University of Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert campus.

Until he lays his head down on the pillow at night, he uses any spare time he has to study or go to the gym. But even while he is asleep, he is alert for the ring of his telephone.

You see, Bihun is a man with a purpose.

A full-time nursing student who just completed his second year of studies, Bihun trains and competes in national and international weightlifting competitions, holds down a part-time job in retail sales, and is on 24-hour call as a volunteer firefighter in Prince Albert. He trains with firefighters for three hours every Tuesday, and on one Saturday every month he works on search and rescue skills with the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association, a civilian division of the military.

“It’s about good time management,” Bihun said of his relentless schedule.

Preparing meals for an entire week helps him save time. He also doesn’t spend unnecessary time on his devices. Tactics can vary, but for Bihun, the mantra for successfully juggling lots of demanding extra-curricular activities is “don’t waste time.”

"It’s rewarding for me to help people and make their day better. That’s what I want to do as a career." Forest Bihun is a full-time nursing student who just completed his second year of studies. (Photo: Submitted)

He stays focused on what is really important to him, which is studying and the gym. The workouts not only help him win competitions, they also help him be prepared for the calls that come from the fire department at any time of the day or night.

“I might have to go to a car accident or a house fire, and that could take 12 hours of my day,” he said. “I don’t have time for socializing and a lot of other stuff. I’ve only watched two hours of Netflix in the last semester.”

Weightlifting is good for Bihun’s mental health, boosts his self-confidence, offers friendships and motivates him to stay fit. And he hopes his well-toned body will earn him a place on the 2020 Saskatchewan Firefighters Calendar.

His fellow firefighters have become like family to him.

“When you go into burning building with people, and live through 14-hour days together, you develop bonds,” he said. “It’s like a big support group, too.”

Bihun’s plethora of pursuits help provide relief from the stress of the nursing program’s heavy course load. Even after a night fighting fires, he shows up for classes and will sleep in his truck during breaks if he has to.

Everything Bihun is doing prepares him for the career paths that appeal to him looking forward, from working in an emergency ward, serving with an emergency ambulance service such as STARS; or helping with international emergency relief. But mostly, he just wants to be a nurse so that he can help people, as he has done ever since he can remember.

“I like the urgency of emergency medical help, but it was also really satisfying for me to work with people in long-term care during my clinical practice,” Bihun said. “It’s rewarding for me to help people and make their day better. That’s what I want to do as a career.”

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