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Bette Mushta Nursing Awards: Making the difference between surviving and thriving

Two awards, established by Kelowna resident Don Mushta, support mature and Indigenous nursing students in memory of his late wife.

Bette Mushta

For Don Mushta, the memory of his late wife Bette Mushta, returning to university as a social work student in her late thirties, has left an indelible stamp on his memory.

“Bette was an exceptional person. When I met her, she was working as an occupational therapist and was later able to finish her degree in social work as a mature student,” says Don. “Years later, when undergoing treatment for cancer, she was very impressed by the care she received. It was then she decided to create an award in nursing with a focus on mature students.”

Don founded the Bette Mushta Award for Mature Students in Nursing, established in Bette’s memory. The award has already provided crucial support to students when they’ve needed it most — students such as Lisa Incrocci.

“This has been such a tremendous gift to my family. It has not been easy being a mature student with children,” says Lisa. “I had been out of full-time school for 13 years, and before I received any funding, I worked up to three part-time jobs to make it through financially. I put my kids to bed and usually did not start my homework until 9:30 or 10:00 at night. It was emotionally draining!”

The Bette Mushta award returned Lisa Incrocci’s family to a sense of normalcy. Lisa could now stay home with her children through the holidays instead of working as she had the past six years.

“It gave me the space I needed to work a bit less and focus more on my studies while building greater emotional resilience,” says Lisa. “Most importantly, it gave me time with my children. I cannot stress enough the amazing gift that was.”

Don Mushta knows how important family is. He is part of the Carney family, one of the Okanagan’s pioneer families of the late 1800s, part of whose land UBC Okanagan is now situated. He also thinks of Indigenous Peoples here before that and their right to nursing careers, culturally sensitive to Indigenous understanding and approaches to health. In that vein, Don created the Bette Mushta Aboriginal Nursing Award in 2018 to again honour his wife. He knows she would have approved of such a cause.

“Bette always had a real interest in Indigenous affairs,” says Don, “and Indigenous students certainly needed the support at that time. Since then, UBC has made real strides with awards for Indigenous students — which is a very positive and much-needed trend.”

For Lisa Incrocci, this support has made such a difference in her life — and she has these words for donors like Don Mushta.

“Awards from donors do make the difference between barely surviving and thriving. Funding from donors has meant everything to my family, and there are simply not enough words to express my gratitude for their generosity.”