Allison Milley & Karen Green, Occupational Health Nurses, IWK Occupational Health Safety and Wellness
For some, being a nurse right now means applying their years of experience to the constant influx of changes. Karen Green and Allison Milley of the IWK Occupational Health Safety and Wellness (OH&W) team embody this practice. Green, a previously retired occ. health nurse, and Milley, a relatively new member of the IWK family, now work together to provide support to IWK staff.
Last year, Milley returned to Halifax after working for several years as an Occupational Health Nurse in Alberta and she applied to a job opening at the IWK. That opening was a position previously held by Green, after 35 years in her field, she was hanging up her badge for retirement.
“On March 18 I was sitting at home, watching the pandemic unfold,” says Green about her recent reinstatement, “and I knew the impact that it could have on the IWK. I was here for the Mumps outbreak and the H1N1 outbreak, so I knew this was going to impact care and change everything.” Green called the Nova Scotia College of Nursing and had her license reinstated the next day.
In outbreaks, close collaboration with Public Health is needed to manage communicable diseases and ensure early recognition, provide education, and perform contact tracing to minimize and prevent disease transmission.
Milley and Green have been working together to deliver support and care to IWK staff. They’ve been on deck answering a wide range of staff questions, keeping departments informed of changes, referring staff to resources, assisting with enhanced PPE, continuing to provide first aid to staff, performing new hire screening and fitness to work, managing those with pre-existing health conditions and so much more.
“Right now, being an occupational health nurse feels like we just need to do whatever we can to make sure everyone is safe and taking care of themselves at work,” says Milley. “We have a lot of resources to offer staff, especially through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). It offers much more than counseling services, like information on sleep hygiene, self-care and dietitian services to name a few.”
OH&W have been collaborating with other IWK departments as well to find solutions for staff, like peer-to-peer support program launched with Adolescents Intensive Services (AIS). They’ve also worked with the wound care nurse to provide staff with skin care solutions to those who are wearing more PPE and for longer periods of time.
“A lot of the time people might not know what they need to take care of themselves,” adds Green. “In healthcare, a lot of us have the training and the knowledge of how to care for others but it can be harder to recognize in yourself. That’s what makes the specialty of Occupational Health Nursing different, because we understand the requirements of staff, what the job demands are, where the gaps might be, and how, for example, the stress from all of that could be affecting them.”
“Occupational Health is very confidential, and when employees come to us it’s very private, so there’s a lot of our work that we don’t get to talk about for those reasons. In this way, though, it can be very rewarding to have those conversations with staff and to know them in the way that we do. I always say that occ. health is an organization’s best kept secret.”
National Nurses’ Week runs from May 11-17, thank you to all our IWK nurses!