Wow … where to start …
I’ve been a registered nurse for 24 years and have worked in four countries and in about 20 different positions, from frontline staff to director. The opportunities in nursing are endless.
Nursing is a diverse profession with over 100 nursing specialties. In the Yukon, nurses work in a variety of settings, from patients’ homes, hospitals and healthcare clinics, corrections and to rural and remote nursing stations, just to name a few.
As an educator, I was often asked, “What does it take to be a nurse?” Well, that’s challenging to answer because there are a lot of qualities that are beneficial, such as being inquisitive, organized, an exceptional problem solver, a great active listener and being caring and eager to learn new things everyday … but the thing that has been the most important for me is having integrity and passion for the profession and having the desire to promote a healthy community, one patient at a time.
Everyday I go to work and there are new challenges. It may be new policies and processes that I have to learn and adapt to, or it could be walking into a bustling ER department and a full, waiting room where sick, irate patients are waiting to see a physician. I understand their frustration, but all too often nurses “bear the brunt” because they are unable to “move them through” quickly. I’ve never had “thick skin,” but being an ER nurse has caused me to grow one, purely for self-preservation.
May 7-13, 2018, is Nursing Week, Canada-wide. Please take a moment, with me, to acknowledge and thank all of the amazing nurses who have helped you through times of crisis, cared for you in vulnerable moments, taught you how to live a healthier lifestyle and held your hand as the doctor shared your latest test results.
Nurses truly are the heart and soul of healthcare and make a vast contribution to the health of Yukoners and visitors alike.
At times when I’ve felt that I’ve given all that I can give and am feeling totally depleted, there’s always some experience that I can reflect on that provides me solace and keeps me in the profession. I would like to take a moment to share one with you. It always puts a smile on my face and brings a warm glow to my heart.
Ten years ago … while flying medevacs in the North …
It was 15:00. The phone rings and the dispatcher said, “Grab your stuff … head to the hospital … you’re wheels up in 45.” I jumped into my uniform and off I went.
A regal-looking First Nations man (Mr. “H”) was sitting in a wheelchair, hooked up to wall oxygen via nasal prongs. His nurse relayed that he had received bad news two weeks ago—a palliative diagnosis with only weeks to live. His family had rallied quickly to set up a comfortable space for him in his home and to provide care with the community RN’s assistance.
I introduced myself and he said, “Can we go now?”
“Absolutely,” I replied, understanding his sense of urgency. I made him comfortable on the stretcher, zipped up the sleeping bag, secured the monitors and safety straps and we were off. Mr. H. sighed with relief. He was going home!
“Hey, how you doing?” It was P.J., one of our pilots. “Great,” I said.
“Buckle up. You better prepare yourself for a bumpy ride. It’s a pretty windy day out there and the snow’s just started to come down.”
I did my final checks and buckled up as we started taxiing. Mr. H and I gazed out the window as the King Air lifted off. The lights of the town were quickly distant.
The flight would be 90 minutes. Mr. H and I talked about his life, his home, his children and his hopes and regrets. He relayed what he had done in his life and said, “It’s been hard, but it’s been a good one.” He had lost his wife a few years earlier.
The plane shook and lurched. Mr. H grabbed my hand. I held it and reassured him. “I don’t like flying much,” he relayed. “I’d rather be at home.”
The plane soared a bit higher and the turbulence subsided. Mr. H’s respirations slowly returned to his norm.
About 20 minutes out I could hear the pilots talking on the radio. I hope there’s not a problem, I thought to myself. I walked to the front of the plane and said, “Hey guys, what’s up?”
P. J. looked at me and said, “The runway lights are out. We’re not going to be able to land. We’re turning around.”
I returned to my seat and told Mr. H what had happened. He did not make a sound but slowly turned his face away. Softly I said, “I’m so sorry. We can try again tomorrow.” The lights of the community, now, no more than a glimmer.
Ten minutes later I feel the plane veer sharply to the right and it seemed that we were turning around. P.J. comes back to the cabin, big grin on his face … He looked at Mr. H and said, “Sir, you’re going home after all. You’ve got a lot of friends down there.”
“What’s happening?” I asked.
P.J. said, “Wait ten minutes and look out your window.” I looked at Mr. H. He was smiling.
When I gazed out the window, I could see a lot of twinkling lights. The community had lined up their vehicles, on both sides of the runway, so the pilots could see the start of the runway and the end. I burst into tears of joy!
We took our approach and the plane glided in and came to a halt. The pilots opened the door. Many community members were present and eagerly welcomed their Elder home.