Q: Where would you say you’re from?
A: I’ve spent time all over western Canada. I was born in Prince Rupert, B.C. where is seems to rain 370 days of the year. My dad worked for the railway which led us to northern Manitoba. He eventually transferred into the oil fields and we ended up in the Lloydminster area. Te frst big oil bust happened in ’86 and that was when my dad got involved in natural gas which brought us down to the Lethbridge area. I finished high school in southern Alberta.
Q: Tell me about your journey into nursing school.
A: I ended up in Fairview because I didn’t know what I was doing. I applied to nursing school in Grand Prairie and got shut down. I pumped gas and went to the college and upgraded some courses. Te following year my mom and I applied at the same time and she got in as a mature student. I was put on the waitlist at like two-thousand-and-something, so I decided last minute I would do what kids call a pre-med program. I ended up in my second semester knowing I didn’t want to be a doctor; I wanted to be a nurse. Te next year I got accepted three weeks after the program had already started. My mom was in her third year and they said, “oh your mom can help you out with your first-year stuff”. I tried my best that semester, but I started too far behind and it just didn’t work. It was a sad moment for me and the program director. I went to Mexico for three months to volunteer work which didn’t play out as expected but I met some really interesting people and had a great time. Most importantly I came back with the determination that I was going to be a nurse. I applied the following year, got in, and the rest is history.
Q: How did you come to be in the ICU at FMC?
A: I returned to Grand Prairie about two-and-a-half years later working in the hospital as a medical float nurse for the entire site. Tis led to experiences covering in PACU and the ICU where I show up and have no idea what I’m doing. It was great exposure but there was no theory; no background. Talk about sympathetic overdrive. I remember asking what the difference was between anterior and posterior. They didn’t have the resources. You couldn’t just call an expert to ask what’s going on. Another nurse I worked with was introduced in the same manner. We were both terrified. We were constantly asking questions and depended on each other for support. Tat was my introduction to the importance of relationships in managing critical care situations. In 2000, a friend of mine worked in the ICU at the PLC and introduced me to the manager. Our house in Grand Prairie sold in two weeks and of we moved to Calgary. I worked there 5 years before taking a position in Aphaeresis at FMC where I stayed for a year before starting part-time in the ICU.
Q: Tell me about the ICU at FMC.
A: There are three teams separated into pods A, B & C with a total of twenty-eight funded beds. Pod A is medical surgical, B pod is primarily long-term patients, and C pod is neuro trauma. A typical day is twelve hours with three head-to-toe assessments and multidisciplinary rounds which take approximately 30-45 minutes per patient. We adapt patient treatment based on orders from rounds and provide frequent updates to family. We help each other with stabilizing unstable patients and spend time mixing new infusions through ongoing basic care. We primary nurse in ICU but we team primary nurse. Te more experienced nurses use every opportunity to pass down their knowledge. If I mentor a junior nurse really well, when I end up in ICU as a patient, I feel good knowing they know how to provide me the best care. I support less experienced colleagues because someone did that for me.
Q: What special certifications or skills best prepare a Registered Nurse to work in the ICU?
A: Te best preparation for the ICU is a strong background in medical or surgical nursing. Time on neurosurgery and trauma surgery floors helps immensely. Pharmacology and ECG interpretation, temporary venous pacing, central and arterial line use and care are some of the entry level skills obtained in orientation. Later comes training with pulmonary artery catheters, continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT), advanced trauma care, burn care and Code Blue. It›s always good to have ongoing education in trauma, burns, sepsis, organ failure and care for organ donating patients. After some time, charge and outreach training may be available.
Q: How do RNs working in the ICU cope with the stress and emotions that accompany the most acute department in the hospital?
A: I remember the experience of my first patient death in the ICU. I had a conversation with the patient where they said that if/when they became ventilator dependent, to give them something to keep them comfortable and allow them to pass. They were directing their own care. United Nurses of Alberta 8 Local 115 NewsLetter Summer 2019 It was empowering and beautiful in a really weird ICU way. Te family was there, and we were supportive through the patient’s passing into the next state of their existence. Tat’ll stay with me forever. You can start to ask yourself things like, is this affecting me somehow? Am I becoming immune to the human condition at the end of a patient’s life? Do I have the ability to be emotionally connected yet professionally distant enough so I can deliver the best care to the next patient? Including family in the care of their loved one is critical. They are the experts on who this person is. I let them guide me. I tell them what I’m going to do and how I can help their loved one. It’s a relationship that seems a simple thing but is vitally important. A healthy work-life balance is also extremely important.
Q: What do you like to do in Calgary in your spare time?
A: Bujinkan. I’ve been training since 1998. It’s a Japanese martial art based off of nine curriculums in a combination of ninjutsu and bujutsu. There’s lot of weapons training. There’s also an aspect of bujinkan called taijutsu, which is like the grandfather of jujitsu which came from China which came from India. It’s interesting to see how its travelled. It’s good for the mind and body. I enjoy being the student. I also like restaurants and live music. I recently saw Metric and July Talk at the Corral.
Q: What’s your greatest challenge in the workplace?
A: The rapidity of change. I’m having to learn to let things flow and come as they happen. I like to have my finger on the pulse and I like things to be perfect but it’s not always possible. I’m learning that some things take longer and that we can adjust as we go along. I don’t like jumping in with both feet and wondering what fluid I’m standing in.
Q: Why is the union important to you?
A: Te union gives us good protection for us to do our job and allows us to earn what we’re worth. It helps us understand and navigate a massive profession. Last AGM they were talking about how far we’ve come in the last 40 years. It was really good to look at where we started and where we are today. Te horizon is limitless with UNA when we continue to improve upon healthy communication with AHS.
For more on this Member Spotlight please check out our UNA Local 115 Newsletter.