Interviewed by Chantelle Nejnec.
This is the job that we were trained for. We’re trained to respond to disastrous situations, including a pandemic. We’re the frontline. So I need to put my head down, get through it, and support patients.
What would you say is a general description of your job?
“I’m a Nursing Resource Team nurse so my job is to go to different floors based on what staffing needs they require and to fill in gaps for the team that resides on that floor. I rotate in oncology mostly, along with gynecology.”
Do you enjoy your job?
“I love it because I get to see so many different types of patients daily; I get to work with so many teams. You really have to be quick on your feet because you never know what you’re walking into on any given day, you could be seeing a type of patient population that you’ve never seen before and you have to use different skill sets that you may have not used in a few months. So I find it challenging but my favourite part about my job is that I always have to be quick on my feet which I really enjoy doing.”
How long were you in school for?
“I did my undergrad in kinesiology which was 4 years and then I did the 2 year accelerated program at the University of Toronto. Because I had all my pre-reqs from anatomy and physiology, I just did the 2 year compressed program where I mostly did clinical and nursing. It took me 6 years in total.”
There are just a broad range of situations that can happen in a day; you can’t expect anything in advance. Things can quickly change or deteriorate before your eyes.”
What’s something about your job that most people might not know?
“The breadth of everything that happens in a day. I can do anything from getting my patients water, to settling them in bed, to inserting a nasogastric tube, to taking my patients for a walk. Or I could catch a critical lab value and have to talk to the doctor to rapidly respond to a situation where a patient is in distress or actively dying. There are just a broad range of situations that can happen in a day; you can’t expect anything in advance. Things can quickly change or deteriorate before your eyes.”
Things were so hectic at the hospital which made it hard to have a proper orientation; everyone was really stressed out.
What patients do you usually deal with?
“I deal with mainly surgical/medical patients, so patients who just came out of surgery recently and are still under a lot of pumps and a lot of surgical drains. They have to be monitored because they can deteriorate pretty rapidly. I also deal with medical patients who are in an acute medical state where they are actively experiencing delirium or experiencing appendicitis or another medical issue. They are under a lot of pain and require a lot of monitoring.”
How have things been different for you at your job during the pandemic?
“I started a new job at the beginning of the pandemic. Things were so hectic at the hospital which made it hard to have a proper orientation; everyone was really stressed out. A lot of the nurses weren’t in the best mental position to teach so we kind of had to figure some stuff out for ourselves. But I definitely noticed that things have been more tense. We have more sick patients because surgeries were delayed, of course, so we’re getting that backlog in. Also seeing patients not being able to see their families daily. Before the lockdown, patients were able to see their families once every three days so it wasn’t as bad.
Now, with families not being able to come in at all, it’s pretty difficult to watch your patients at their most sick state not have access to their families or their support system.
It’s also especially hard for older patients who are delirious and confused and don’t necessarily know where they are. Them not having their families makes it their healing process entirely different. For older people, depression can exacerbate their condition even more. It’s quite sad to watch.”
We have to constantly wear personal protective equipment which adds a whole new layer onto our work.
What are some challenges that you face on a day-to-day basis?
“We have to constantly wear personal protective equipment which adds a whole new layer onto our work. I would say the biggest change is that because of the backlog in surgeries, the higher number of patients that we’re getting makes our day to day jobs just that much more challenging because we’re still at the same patient to nursing ratio (1 to 4), but we’re typically dealing with patients that are a little bit more acute than what they would have been before the pandemic. It makes me so much better as a nurse in a shorter period of time than what it would have been otherwise because I’m seeing a spectrum of cases, meaning that I have to step up my skills.”
If you could give yourself some advice from when you first began to work during the pandemic, what advice would you give yourself?
“I would just tell myself to expect anything, this is the job that we were trained for, we’re trained to respond to disastrous situations, including a pandemic. We’re the frontline. So I need to put my head down, get through it, and support patients. It is also crucial that I support my colleagues to help them not burn out and to just be a team player.”
Is there a particularly memorable experience/memory that you had recently that you would like to share?
“On the topic of patients and not seeing their families, I was taking care of a patient who was in the hospital for 50 days and hadn’t seen his family for a while. There were COVID restrictions that did not allow the patient to see their family. I was there when they eventually managed to get the family into the hospital for a reunion. Just seeing that in-person connection, beyond facetiming, was very heartwarming. The family reuniting was really touching to me because I cared for that patient a lot and knew how much it meant for them to just have that support from their family.”
What’s one good thing that you felt happened in 2020, despite COVID-19?
“For me personally, my husband got to work from home. So before I started working, I got to be with him everyday. It was our first year of marriage so it was really nice to spend the time together and have him for support.”
In nursing especially, it’s a long learning process. You never stop learning.
What would you say motivates and inspires you?
“For me, I just want to make as big of an impact on other people as possible.
I am pushing myself to be better. Right now, I’m trying to be the best nurse I could be by learning all these different types of skill sets to respond to as many different types of situations with regards to my patient’s needs. I just want to keep studying and learning. In nursing especially, it’s a long learning process.
You never stop learning. You could be nursing for 30 years, and you’ll still be learning something new everyday. So for me, it’s pushing myself to learn and be there for my patients so I can push my career as far as possible.”
What’s something you wish you could tell your patients that would make your job a little easier?
“I would tell them to know that unfortunately, because of the political and medical system, nurses are strapped for resources. We want to help our patients and talk to them and be there for them but unfortunately there are days where the nursing to patient ratio doesn’t allow for that. Nurses are unfortunately overburdened sometimes and although we care and want to do our best to help, it isn’t always possible to give our patients that one-to-one individualized care. It’s tough on us too because we really want to make that patient connection; it’s so hard to not have the time to sit down and actually talk to your patient.”