#WeAnswerTheCall — Nursing Week 2021

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Nursing Week in Canada is being recognized May 10–16, 2021. The theme for 2021 as designated by the Canadian Nurses Association is #WeAnswerTheCall in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To celebrate National Nursing Week and National Indigenous Nurses Day, IWK Health nurses shared why they’re proud to be a nurse and what the theme #WeAnswerTheCall means to them.

Katie Hilton, ambulatory clinic nurse, Dartmouth Women’s Ambulatory Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinic

“Being a nurse allows me to comfort when comfort is desired, laugh when laughter is essential and act when time is imperative. This profession values lifelong learning and how that looks is different for everyone. My journey as an LPN looks like no one else’s and for that I am proud. I am most proud that currently as an LPN, I have made an impact in women’s health and through strong leadership, will continue to do so.”

Hilton is a licensed practical nurse (LPN) at the Dartmouth Women’s Ambulatory Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinic. The Dartmouth clinic is one of IWK Health’s community sites that brings care closer to patients. Hilton and her colleagues see a wide array of obstetric patients as well as general gynecology and uro-gynecology patients. Her main focus is procedural efficiencies and helping to tailor care to the individual patients’ needs. Whether she is looking at the needs of the patient from an educational lens, or simply being cognizant of the unique time constraints of today’s families, Hilton’s guiding principle in the workplace is simplifying and enhancing the patient experience. Along with the support of the team at the Dartmouth clinic, Hilton and her colleagues are building something exciting for women’s health, not only in Dartmouth, but in Nova Scotia.

#WeAnswerTheCall: “The pandemic has really tested us all in ways we could not have imagined. But bravely, Nova Scotia’s nurses answered the call loudly and without hesitation. We have juggled at home schooling, no childcare, working longer hours and we have been our patients’ support system when their loved ones could not be present. The mental load that brings does not go unnoticed, but we rose to the occasion! We’ve adapted, pivoted and have done so because the profession of nursing is built on the back of an idea that can be best summarized by a Florence Nightingale quote ‘Rather, ten times, die in the surf, heralding the way to a new world, than stand idly on the shore.’ Nurses will continue to not stand idly by the shore throughout the remainder of this pandemic just as we have done thus far.”

Courtney Pennell, Indigenous health consultant, Healthy Populations and Provincial Initiatives

“I am proud to be a nurse because it is truly a one-of-a-kind profession where you can make a difference daily. Nursing gives me an opportunity to create lasting changes for the good, to be a part of research, evidence-based advancements, policy implementation, advocation for patients and families — and the list goes on. Now, being in the position of the Indigenous health consultant, I get to play a key role, humbly and proudly, in working with Indigenous communities, their leadership and leadership within the IWK to work toward closing the gaps of health inequities for my fellow Indigenous people — which is long overdue.”

In March 2021, after close to six years already at IWK Health, Pennell began a new role as Indigenous health consultant — the first position of its kind at IWK Health. Pennell describes herself as being of mixed, Mi’kmaq ancestry. As part of her new role, Pennell is working towards closing/tending to the ever-concerning health inequities faced by Indigenous populations. Her responsibilities are many and include working closely with IWK Health leaders on organizational fulfillment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada calls to action; facilitating connection with Indigenous health leaders across the Maritimes; applying Indigenous ways of being in the planning, implementation and evaluation of policies, programs — and so much more.

#WeAnswerTheCall: “Nurses are undeniably the one, true-pivotal profession necessary to combat the pandemic and see us through to where we are today. Nurses are the most valuable asset during this crisis. I am beyond proud of nurses, globally. Nursing presence is a real cause for celebration, both during, and beyond, National Nursing Week.”

May 13, 2021 is National Indigenous Nurses Day in Canada.

Kailee McCarron, nurse practitioner; Katherine Wagner, clinic nurse; Karen Young, clinic nurse — Kids’ Rehabilitation Services

Left to right: Kailee McCarron, Katherine Wagner, Karen Young

“I am incredibly proud to be a part of a community of (mostly) women which I find incredibly empowering. I feel I have been given the privilege to be welcomed into the lives of patients and families during their most vulnerable and most celebrated times. I have seen the hands of nurses hold the hands of people in their last days, perform CPR, brush patients’ hair, hold babies and clap for first steps. I am so fortunate to have be a member of such a varied and fulfilling profession.”
— McCarron

“My pride of the nursing community extends from my professional experience and personal observation. As a Nurse at the IWK, I am honored to be a part of my patient’s and family’s journey. My role in education and care, allows me to witness the hardships, successes our patients and families are faced with daily. I take pride in my ability to provide support and care in a focused effort for both patients and their families. This focused effort is shared among my colleagues. We are always prepared and willing to face new challenges, as witnessed this past year. I’ve been witness to the value a nurse brings to our health care experience and I’m very proud to be among these incredible individuals.”
— Wagner

“I feel privileged to be a nurse and to have had the opportunity to work at the IWK for 31 years. I am so grateful and honored to be involved in the care of so many amazing families. I am thankful to have learned so much from so many co-workers and families. ‘Proud’ doesn’t fully express how it feels to be a nurse for me — I feel great humility as a nurse, and am so fortunate to do what I do.”
— Young

McCarron, Wagner and Young all work in Kids Rehabilitation Services and are a unique trio of nurses at IWK Health. Their clinic is the only one in the Children’s Health Program where all jurisdictions of practicing nurses work together: licensed practical nurses, nurse practitioners and registered nurses. All three spend the majority of their days working directly with patients whether that is counselling them on the phone, working in outpatient clinics or providing care to patients admitted to hospital. All three agree that while no two days are ever the same, every day is rewarding as they help children, youth, teens and families reach their functional goals.

#WeAnswerTheCall: “This past year has been a real paradigm shift for me. I was working as a nurse practitioner in Adult Nephrology before changing my career back to pediatrics, however, between those two positions, I became a mom! I feel that being a nurse has prepped me in countless ways for motherhood; not to mention motherhood in lockdown. Returning to a career as a working mom in the midst of a global pandemic was challenging but I felt that the strength and resilience of my colleagues and community carried me through. As nurses, we have been approachable and adaptable to always answer the call.”
— McCarron

#WeAnswerTheCall: “Over the past 12 months Nurses have had to completely pivot within their professional and personal lives. Many of us moved onto the frontline of battling COVID-19. We answered the call by calming the fears of a patients and educating on practicing all public health measures, in clinic, at home and in our communities. We were a kind voice, a calming presence and showed courage in the midst of a global pandemic.”
— Wagner

#WeAnswerTheCall: “At the IWK, our nurses have been more committed than ever to our families and their needs. Throughout this pandemic, we have been supporting families, listening to their fears and concerns, providing ever-changing information, and continued to do the work that our families need us to do. Our nurses have risen to answer calls for help in the community and in our own units. Our nurses have been self-less heroes.”
— Young

Iain Hartman, staff nurse, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

“What I am most proud of as a nurse is having the privilege of working with amazing people. This is twofold; I have the privilege of being a part of the birth of new life and assisting families in learning and caring for their newborn, and starting a new chapter in their lives. I also have the privilege of working with the most amazing, and invaluable, team in the NICU, who offer so much of their time and care. I am proud as a nurse that this is my career.”

Hartman’s role within NICU includes acting as a bedside nurse, occasional charge nurse, repatriation nurse and emergency nurse. Daily, he looks after preterm-to-term infants with an array of illnesses and growth/development needs along with assisting parents to care for their new baby. As an emergency nurse, Hartman attends high-risk births and/or any birth that is deemed emergent by the Birth Unit. He also assists other health centre units with IVs and blood work on infants among many other things to support the care of NICU.

#WeAnswerTheCall: “It has been a tough year with lots of unknowns, however, our team embraced the Pandemic Response Unit when it was first launched in the NICU. We’ve answered the call to float when other floors were short. We were able to bridge the gap in communication regarding new rules with the pandemic, vaccine roll out and general staff education.”

Laura Callaghan, pediatric nurse practitioner and clinical leader of operations IWK Valley Site

“I am proud to be a nurse, as it creates the opportunity to enter into people’s lives during some of their most vulnerable experiences. In this space, as a nurse, I am often witness to the lows of suffering and the heights of joy and I have opportunity to respond. I can offer presence, care, compassion, calm, intervention, education, encouragement expertise and comfort, with the hopes of moving clients and their families forward in their journey towards health and healing. I feel it is an amazing privilege to be a nurse.”

Callaghan works with an interprofessional team as well as Department of Justice colleagues to coordinate, and provide care for, youth in custody or youth admitted to the Secure Care Unit. She provides primary health care clinics to care for youth with medical needs as well as psychiatric support and assessments for youth in custody. She also assesses and provides care for newcomer children and youth who present with mental health concerns, often requiring collaboration between families, schools, primary care and support organizations such as ISANS.

#WeAnswerTheCall: “I feel that all working in the health care system deserve recognition on how they have responded in the midst of the pandemic, but I see nursing as a group who stepped forward and leaned into the gap created by the pandemic. Where many by necessity and public health guidance moved out of offices and onto online care, nurses continued to come into the spaces providing front line, face to face care for patients and families. They juggled multiple roles, demands and needs and transitioned into different areas, learned new skills to respond with competency and compassion to an ever-changing clinical dynamic.”