Saskatchewan Polytechnic retired nursing alum shifts into new career as a novelist

February 2024

After spending most of her life taking care of others, Pattie Janzen found therapy in writing while having to focus on her health after an acquired brain injury. Now an accomplished writer, her trilogy of novels are set in the field of health care. Janzen says, “I was a nurse for 38 years, that is what I know and loved every moment, the good along with the bad.”

Janzen, born and raised in Saskatoon, took the Nursing diploma program from 1982 to 1984 at what was then known as Kelsey campus. One of three siblings, Janzen knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a nurse. “It is very rare for people to know what they want to be and keep that idea, but I had an older cousin who was an emergency room nurse. She attended Kelsey as well,” says Janzen. “I remember my mom and my aunts talking about her. I really looked up to her. That was my obsession when I was little.” Janzen’s sister also pursued a short career in healthcare as a Continuing Care Assistant (CCA).

Janzen says the two-year program was exactly what she wanted. After researching university options, she felt the diploma program was a better fit. “I didn’t want to be a manager, I wanted to be a bedside nurse. The program was very intense and focused on patient care, bedside care and acute care. I wanted to work with people. The training got you into the hospitals within a few months.”

During Janzen’s training, she married Brian, her husband of nearly 40 years. The nursing program provided several practicums including maternity, medical surgery, medicine and psych. “We had gotten married in between my two years, and then I had to go to North Battleford to the psychiatric centre. You know how it is when you’re newly in love. Of course, I didn’t want to leave, but I had no choice. Off I went.”

After graduation, Janzen worked at the old Saskatoon City Hospital on the maternity ward for five years. Janzen says, “I enjoyed working with new mothers and wanted to focus on labour and delivery in my career so I applied at St. Paul’s Hospital and got a job there.” During this time her husband Brian, also a Sask Polytech alum left a construction job, took the Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program, and got hired at St. Paul’s Hospital. Janzen says, “Then the cuts came. We both got layoff slips because we weren’t senior enough.” 

After 10 years in healthcare in Saskatoon, the Janzen’s packed up everything they owned, sold their home, and moved with their three kids in tow to Yorkton. “I applied at the Yorkton Hospital and landed a job in obstetrics where I worked for a long time. I also did some home care and worked in recovery for a while. Brian found casual work as an LPN and eventually landed a full-time position.

Now retired from nursing, Janzen has more time to focus on her writing career. A published author Janzen’s trilogy of novels, the Someone of Substance, a family-based series, was released in 2021. Although fictional, the novels reflect some of the trials and tribulations that have happened in her life as well as in her nursing career. Janzen’s first novel covers a personal topic. “I lost a few babies while we were trying to have kids. It was hard on us. This helped later in my career as I consulted with families going through the same thing.”

Her sideline writing career began after taking a writing course in 2000. Janzen wrote a humour column called ‘Laugh at Life” in the local paper. “I owe my beginning to Calvin Daniels, the editor of Yorkton This Week for giving me the opportunity.” At the time Janzen was off work due to an illness that was later discovered to be an acquired brain injury sustained from an amusement park excursion. The injury had brought about depression. Janzen shares, “I found writing to be therapeutic and forced me to improve my concentration. The more I focused the better I became, the happier I became and I could laugh at life again. I found if I kept writing and looking for funny things it was very uplifting.”

Janzen reflects, “The COVID pandemic was a catalyst for me becoming an author.” In 2020 Janzen worked a stint as a screener at the front of the hospital. “There were a lot of attitudes coming into the hospital. People didn’t believe in the vaccine, or they didn’t agree with what we were doing and I would be told off daily.” Coming home each day in a bit of a funk and seeking a reprieve, Janzen started writing her first romance novel.

“I loved writing and always journaled and thought it would be cool to be published. One day I threw away my outlines and just started writing.”

Janzen says, “I also reached out to Calvin at the paper, which was now 20 years later, and began writing the column again. This was the answer for me. I started to write and laugh at life again.”   

At only 59 Janzen has written three more novels, yet to be published. She has also started inspirational speaking engagements and is looking forward to spending time with their 12 grandchildren.