Returning down the road: From P.E.I. to Alberta and back again

For many years Prince Edward Islander Kevin Ryan worked in the oil fields of Alberta and it was exactly what he wanted to be doing, until it wasn't.

Why Kevin Ryan gave up being an Alberta oil patch worker to become a P.E.I. nurse

Kevin Ryan has come back to P.E.I. to stay. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

For many years Prince Edward Islander Kevin Ryan worked in the oil fields of Alberta and it was exactly what he wanted to be doing, until it wasn't.

"Some people are happy to stay home forever and some people want to go out and see something else," said Ryan.

"That was how I felt at the time. I felt there was nowhere I could take my life in P.E.I. at that time."

He worked in the field, once for almost 100 days straight. He worked behind a desk as a recruiter. When his father died in 2001 he started coming back to P.E.I. to farm on his father's land, growing summer savoury as he did, and returning to Alberta after the harvest.

A good life for the young

Outside of work there was music. Ryan and his guitar became a fixture at local venues wherever he happened to be. He released three recordings: in 1994, in 2000, and in 2006. Music was his joy, and work was a way to pay for it.

"In the younger days that's not much of an issue," he said.

"You don't need a whole lot. You just need your guitar, you try to write as much as you can and you get out to play. That's what I did."

And then in August 2009, Seamus, his first son, was born and changed everything.

'The hardest thing'

He was home farming as usual, but that wasn't going to pay all the bills for the year. To make matters worse the economy was in a downturn and the only work he could find was driving a crew bus.

"It was out of necessity that I had to go and drive that bus that winter," said Ryan.

"That was the hardest thing, getting on that plane at that time."

And now he was thinking about where he really wanted to be, and whether the lifestyle that had suited him so well for so many years was still the thing for him.

Full-time work on the Island

He was 41 years old, considering a career change, and chose an abrupt turn. He learned that UPEI was offering an accelerated nursing program that he could complete in two years and decided to give it a try.

Perhaps it was becoming a dad, but Ryan found he took to nursing. He got a student placement at Kings County Memorial and it turned into a permanent job in the emergency department after graduation.

Kevin Ryan has found nursing to be an inspiration for his songwriting. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

"It's a privilege, and I don't use that word lightly," Ryan said about nursing.

"Having never seen this side of things and then coming to it a bit later in life than most, I think it informs how you want to live your life."

The studies were intense, he said, and with young children at home on top of that he had to put his music aside. But music has come back into his life, and he finds that his nursing experiences have been an inspiration for his songwriting.

Ryan will perform some of those new songs at Copper Bottom Brewing in Montague on June 22.

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With files from Island Morning