A day in the life of a nurse at SickKids
By Emily de Medeiros
Attempting to describe the role of a nurse in just a few words can be quite a challenging task. Nurses have an extremely complex job that requires juggling multiple responsibilities at the same time. “As frontline staff, nursing is integral to patient care as we tend to be the ‘face’ for a patient and their family. We are their contact person for the day; the one who is the keeper and sharer of information and their advocate. Families depend on us for safe and efficient care,” says Lindsay Clarke, Co-Chair of the RN Council which provides leadership to celebrate and support nursing at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).
In recognition of National Nursing Week, 10 leaders at SickKids had the opportunity to participate in the RN Council’s Nurse for a Day program by shadowing a nurse and experiencing firsthand the integral role nurses play in the care of patients and families.
After scrubbing up and stepping onto the Oncology Unit, Laurie Harrison, Vice-President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer at SickKids, was welcomed by Sarah Ogle, Registered Nurse (RN), to learn the ropes of being at the frontline of care. “I think it is really important for us in administration to have contact with clinical areas because it helps to reinforce the mission of SickKids, and the reason we all do what we do,” says Harrison. Harrison was excited to interact not only with the nurses and staff, but also with the patients and families. “Nurses are a great source of support for family members at a very vulnerable time in their lives,” says Harrison. “I have always known how hard nurses work and this experience truly reinforced that knowledge.”
Barbara Couper, RN, was thrilled to show around Gary Nero, Director of Network and Support Services at SickKids. Nero was hoping to see what types of challenges the nurses face and how his role in information technology (IT) may alleviate some of their stresses and concerns. While shadowing Couper, he was amazed at how many things a nurse does and the complexity involved in caring safely for a patient. “The part I enjoyed the most was watching Barbara interact with a patient and his mom,” says Nero. “She was warm, friendly, engaged and respectful, leading me to conclude that being a nurse is not just about being proficient in clinical skills but also being human.”
As a SickKids nurse who last worked at the bedside in 2010, Kate Langrish, Clinical Director of Paediatric Medicine, was excited for the opportunity to reconnect with patients and families and to experience firsthand what it is like to practice nursing at SickKids today. “I forgot how challenging it can be to take an active three-year-old’s vital signs or to reassure a concerned parent that their child’s condition is improving,” says Langrish. “Today, I was reminded of both the big and small things nurses do to make a difference.” After working with Geoff Koontz, RN, Langrish added, “I was amazed and humbled by the professionalism and skill of our nursing team and I would love to do this again!”
Chantal St. Jules, RN, was eager to show Melody Hicks, Director of Clinical Services, around for the day in the paediatric consult clinic. St. Jules has worked as a nurse in both inpatient and outpatient clinics that require a diverse knowledge and skillset. In the outpatient clinic, nurses like St. Jules play an active role in providing support for patients, like finding what community resources are available to them. “This experience reinforced to me how dynamic, unique and complex the role of a nurse is for each patient visit,” says Hicks. “Chantal's professionalism, kindness, flexibility and skill to coordinate care and services for each patient were remarkable and efficient.”
Una Karanovic, RN, was pleased colleagues like Ihtisham Qureshi, Project Director, Clinical Services were interested in experiencing the role of a nurse. “I’m really trying to get a feel for a nurse’s day and see what some of their highlights and lowlights are. As we begin to design the ‘Hospital of the Future’, as part of Project Horizon, I wanted to get a feel for the way nurses provide care and what, if any, opportunities to systems, technologies, processes and/or physical layout changes can be implemented to enhance the way nurses manage and deliver care to children” says Qureshi.
Throughout his day with Karanovic, he was able to see and experience much more than what he set out for. “Not only did I come out with a deeper appreciation of what nurses do on a daily basis, but I learned why most nurses do what they do,” says Qureshi. During the day, he helped deliver some words of encouragement along with another nurse to a patient’s mom, which brought tears of joy to her eyes, and had a strong impact on him as well. “If there was a message I could share with my colleagues, it would be to appreciate our nurses – they represent our frontline,” says Qureshi. “Next time you see a nurse give them a hug and a fist bump!”
The Nurse for a Day program celebrates the role that nurses play and demonstrate some of the work that they do, as well as highlight the relationships they build across the care team and with patients and families.
“It’s safe to say that to be a nurse is an honour. To have the extreme privilege of entering into a family’s hospital journey and having an impact is something we do not take lightly. We try our best in busy environments to keep our cool, keep everything organized, be on time, write our notes, be prompt, have the answers and the list goes on. Daily, hourly, even minute by minute, we strive to provide excellent care so that it results in a positive experience for patients and their families. We balance a multitude of tasks for many patients at once; ranging from coordinating care with the medical teams and allied health, giving medications via a range of different ways to providing encouragement, giving cuddles and high fives,” says Ashley Spiegel, RN Council Co-Chair.
On behalf of everyone at SickKids, thank you to all nurses for your hard work and dedication to your patients and their families, and to your colleagues.