I am the I in IWK – Shauna Isenor, co-team lead, FATC

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“I work with high-risk pregnant people. These people are experiencing some of the best days of their lives in our centre, and unfortunately, some of the worst. It’s equally a privilege to work with both.” 

Shauna Isenor is going in to her 25th year of her career with the IWK. She started as a nurse in the Family Newborn and Birth Units but after a lengthy hospital stay as a patient herself, she says her switch flipped. 

As a high-risk pregnant patient, Isenor attended weekly appointments at the FATC. “During my appointments, I remember saying to myself ‘I like this unit, I want to do this some day, I need to figure out how.’” 

Isenor went on to spend almost ten weeks in the Anti-partum Unit and her daughter almost four months in the NICU. “I knew the nurses in the FATC at the time, because some of them had worked with me. The nurses were all so helpful, caring, empathetic, sympathetic, and all of the things I took great pride in as a nurse. I just knew I wanted to work in that environment.” 

Soon after getting back to work, Isenor made the transition to the FATC and soon after that, through distance learning and apprenticeship, she achieved her Diagnostic Medical Sonography License. 

At the FATC, Isenor and the team do ultrasounds on the most high-risk pregnant people and fetuses. About 80 percent of Isenor’s time is spent with patients at the ultrasound machine. In this patient population, practitioners see all stages of pregnancy, from early pregnancy through to due dates or being overdue.  

The main focus of the centre is on pre-natal screening for abnormalities and diagnosis. For this reason, Isenor and her team see patients from all over the province, the Maritimes and, sometimes, beyond when they are referred to them by a regional centre. 

“Most of the people who come through our doors are very anxious and scared. It’s not uncommon that I see myself lying on the other side of the ultrasound machine. From personal experience, I remember what that feels like and how comforting just the warm touch of a hand or a few words could be.”  

“Even though nobody could tell that everything was going to be fine, people were amazing at making me feel like they were doing everything they could. So that’s what I like to do. Even if I can’t reassure somebody that everything is going to be okay, it’s just being there with them and helping them through the process.” 

Isenor is the only full-time nurse-sonographer remaining in the FATC, a trend that Isenor says is happening across the country. “I work with amazing sonographers, they are so phenomenal, but when it’s needed, a nursing perspective at the bedside is so important to have in the centre.” Isenor says, that with this high-risk population, it’s extremely valuable to be able to talk to the patients and answer their questions about the prenatal experience. 

“My daughter is now going to be 19 next March and I give full credit to this institution,” says Isenor. “I think I landed in this role for a reason, and I’m so lucky to be able to serve the population that we do.”