It is National Nursing Week in Canada and the Canadian Nursing Association has declared the theme, “We Answer the Call”. To the nurses across PHSA, I know that you have. You have answered the call over the past year to provide exceptional care, to advocate, teach, research, vaccinate, support, and lead. You have answered the call across inpatient units, ambulatory care, surgical suites, mental health services, cancer care, corrections, forensics, emergency and specialized services, with our communities, your colleagues, and countless patients and families who we are all so privileged to serve.
Nurses have a long history of answering the call in Canada. Like
Edith Anderson Monture, a Mohawk woman who experienced many challenges in trying to be accepted into a Canadian Nursing School. At the time, First Nations people faced involuntary loss of their status for pursuing higher education but Edith continued and became the first First Nations registered nurse in Canada. She completed her degree in 1914 at the New Rochelle nursing school in New York when she could not receive her education in Canada.
Over the past year, hundreds of nurses in B.C. came out of retirement or volunteered to assist in the public health response. As nurses, you have continued to play a vital role in health care across our province and, despite living with the fears, fatigue and complexity of the past year, you have continued to lead, to show up and do what is hard, what is complicated, and what is essential.
On behalf of the executive leadership team, I express our gratitude.
- David Byres, president and CEO, PHSA
Meet a few of the nurses working across PHSA and follow along on social media this week to meet many more, as we celebrate our colleagues in the nursing profession!
Mary McCullum, nurse educator, BC Cancer Hereditary Cancer Program
For Mary, it is the patients, families, and her colleagues that motivate her each and every day. “It’s always about the people. My motivation as a nurse comes from a commitment to offer the very best of myself to the patients and families we serve. I’ve had a unique nursing role with the Hereditary Cancer Program and it’s been a remarkable experience to learn from so many amazing patients, families and colleagues throughout my career.”
When asked about advice for the future generation of nurses, Mary says, “Be open to new opportunities. When you find what you’re looking for, embrace it and be the best nurse you can be.”
“There are memories with specific patients and families from across the years that have stayed with me and shaped the nurse I am today,” says Mary. “As I get ready to retire from BC Cancer, I want to express what an honour it has been to be an oncology nurse and thank everyone for this adventure over the past 38 years.”
Meet other BC Cancer nurses answering the call.
Sammy Iammarino RN, MN, senior practice leader, BC Centre of Disease Control (BCCDC) Harm Reduction and Overdose Response team
A nurse, academic, teacher and agent of change. These are just some roles Sammy has played and continues to fulfil in her professional career. Sammy is a senior practice leader for the Harm Reduction and Overdose Response team at the BCCDC, which she describes as her “dream job.”
Sammy began her nursing career in the acute medical unit at Vancouver General Hospital in 2007. She noticed stigma and barriers in care for people who use substances. Determined to make a difference, Sammy soon made a switch to a supervised injection site where she worked as a community health nurse for over nine years.
Sammy’s most memorable experience as a nurse happened over an unlikely conversation with a co-worker. “Last year, I was working in a clinic and while talking to a co-worker who was an outreach worker, we figured out that her and her partner had been my patients 10 years ago at a supervised consumption site. She had stopped using substances, had a child, had a beautiful family and is now pursuing her degree to become a social worker. I was crying. We were both so emotional… it was just an amazing moment!”
Sammy has taught nursing aspirants at British Columbia Institute of Technology and University of Calgary in Qatar. Her advice for the next generation of nurses is to “find a practice area that aligns with your values.”
Watch BCCDC's Twitter account this week to meet other nurses.
Nathan Ly, nurse educator, Red Fish Healing Centre for Mental Health and Addiction
Nathan Ly is committed to empowering others to overcome hardship. As a nurse educator, this means helping colleagues as well as his clients.
“Supporting others aligns with my own personal values of learning, growing, and helping people to continue a cycle of positive change,” he said. “Being a nurse educator and concurrent disorders nurse enables me to put my experience and values to work.”
Nathan’s advice to the next generation of nurses comes from his own experience. “I know what it feels like to struggle,” he said. “If I were to give advice to the next generation, it would be to embrace change because it is a constant, and also to practice self-care regularly, to help you care for others.”
Thinking back to the start of his career, Nathan remembers a particularly messy moment that helped him learn to smile and embrace things as they come.
“There was one day back when I was a student where I was giving medications via gastro-intestinal tube,” he said. “One medication was a bright red liquid and had a very lubricating consistency. Instead of just pushing the air out of the feeding syringe, my hand slipped and I ended up spraying the ceiling with this bright red liquid. Of course, it then started dripping down in front of my patient and my instructor as we all stared at each other. Lessons were learned that day but laughs were also had.”
Meet other BCMHSUS nurses answering the call.
Natalie Heon-Wade, RN, BSN, MM, clinical resource nurse, Maternity Ambulatory Program, BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre
Natalie Heon-Wade is incredibly grateful to be a member of the nursing profession. “In essence, I love to help,” she shares. “Whether it’s helping a pregnant person and their family, or helping a team member or a learner, I feel good about myself when I’m helping others, which is what nursing is all about.”
She also loves the miraculous nature of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. “It’s a privilege to work with families that are on the most intense journey of their lives. Witnessing people and families at their very best, and at their very worst, often simultaneously, and having some small, positive impact on their experience is what keeps me motivated.”
For those thinking about going into the nursing profession, Natalie encourages the future generation of nurses to stay open minded and keep learning.
“Keep stretching and challenging yourself—give yourself something somewhat scary and new to learn, at least every few years. There is so much depth and diversity in nursing, and there are more opportunities than you can ever imagine. Listen and stay curious to discover them.”
Meet other nurses from BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre answering the call.
Michelle Hodson, RN, BSN, general duty nurse, Medical Inpatient Unit, BC Children’s Hospital
For Michelle Hodson, National Nurses Week is a chance to celebrate the profession that she loves.
“Being a pediatric nurse is what I dreamed of becoming since I was 10 years old, and I still feel like it is what I am meant to do,” she says, “I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction and a sense of fulfilment knowing that I have made even a small difference in the lives of my little patients.”
She counts it as a privilege to be a part of her patient’s journeys, noting the importance of what she learns from her patients and their families, including lessons in humility, grace and triumph.
Having been a nurse at BC Children’s Hospital for 26 years, Michelle shares her advice for the next generation of nurses. “Nursing is a profession that is full of highs and lows, and to be successful is to be patient while you navigate the low times. My advice is to keep an open mind, stay empathetic and look for the moments of joy found in the small and simple things – the appreciative smile of a parent, the giggle of a baby and a shared laugh with a co-worker.”
Meet other nurses from BC Children's Hospital answering the call.
At PHSA, we are incredibly grateful for the nurses on our teams, as you continue to answer the call to put people first, break down barriers, empower others to overcome hardship, make a positive impact and practice humility and empathy. Your work not only makes the services we provide possible but also makes them profoundly personal. What you do is the resilience, the recovery and the healing that we need across the province. Thank you.
Join us in expressing our gratitude to nurses for their extraordinary commitment to the patients, clients and the families of those we serve.
To learn more about nursing at PHSA or to sign up for job alerts, visit jobs.phsa.ca/nursing.