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2020 Year of the Nurse: Meet VON’s Nursing staff

 

The World Health Organization declared 2020 as Year of the Nurse and Midwife. Every day, VON Nurses in Ontario and Nova Scotia keep our clients healthy and safe in their homes. Below, you’ll get to know a few of our nursing staff and learn why they find nursing so rewarding, and what it means to them to provide care to our clients and be part of the VON team.

VON Nurses courageously provided care to our clients and community during this unprecedented and rapidly changing time. We are thankful to nurses and for their strength and compassion every day – and in these times especially.

Ravin Murugan, RN, Lunenburg, NS

Why did you choose a career in nursing?
My mother is a nurse but is now retired. I grew up watching her and I was in awe with how much she is recognized in the community, and how much she cares about people. Mostly, I wanted to follow in her footsteps.

How long have you worked at VON?
I joined VON Lunenburg in February 2018.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given you or that you could give someone else about nursing?
Someone once told me "Nursing is never a one-person task, it is teamwork." This is very true, especially when I work alone in the community, this phrase helps me keep my day going. The most frustrating part when you are working alone is not receiving immediate feedback or input from your colleagues during a client visit. But, as long as I am prioritizing the client's needs and work with the team to provide the best client care, that’s the key to being happy and satisfied with my work.  

What do you like to do for fun outside of work?
I own a photography business called Ravin Photography (www.ravinphotography.ca). I also have a 3D printer, and I’m a Certified Drone Pilot, which allows me to take aerial landscape photos.

Can you think of a time or moment that stands out that brought a smile to your face at work?
This is a difficult question to answer as I have many days that have brought a smile. For example, there have been times when my fellow nurses have checked on me before going home, or when I’ve received an email from a manager saying thank you for my work, or when I have a bad day but can crack a joke with the CSAs and it eases my mind...I can add a lot to the list. :)

What do you find is the most rewarding part about being a nurse?
Being a community nurse is awesome. I feel so close to the community and the people, who share their life experiences while receiving care. I like leaving them with a big smile on their face when it’s time for me to go. I also value job satisfaction and a perfect work life balance – I am only 80% part-time. 

More about Ravin’s journey toward becoming a nurse 

I was aware of nursing when I was 10. My mom worked as a nurse in a primary health centre in India. I used to go with her when I was a kid and help her in the pharmacy to cut the pills. Everyone knows me in my hometown because of my mother. 

After 12th grade, I wanted to become a doctor but India has Caste system, so I did not receive admission for medicine. We also have a counselling system, so I applied for BSc Nursing, but it was full already. Indian culture is different; we can't just stay in the home after schooling. People will think something is wrong – there’s a stigma.

So, I joined electronics and instrumentation engineering per my uncle's advice, which I quit after six months due to financial reasons. I had wasted eight months already, so the next option was a Diploma in Nursing which was a three-year course, consisting of two days of classes, four days of clinical, and one day off per week. It was very intense training.  

I graduated in 2009 with a big dream of coming to Canada to work, but my aunt, who is an RN in Toronto, advised me to get some experience before I came over. I was so lucky to get selected for Cardiac OR in India. It was a really big deal to get hired as a new nurse in the OR, and I worked there for a year and a half. During that time, Canada changed the rules and it was mandatory to have a BSc to become an RN. So I started the two-year BScN (Post Basic) and completed it in 2011.

The fastest way to come to Canada is to come as a student, and I love learning. I completed post-graduate certification courses, Critical Care Nursing, Gerontology, and Chronic Illness. Then, I waited two and a half years to receive eligibility to write the Canadian Registered Nursing exam. It was then replaced by a National Council Licensure Examination (“NCLEX”), but I didn't give up. It was my dream to be here and the only way I could do it was by passing the NCLEX exam. I passed in my first attempt. 

In Ontario it's hard to get a full-time job as a new nurse without having any references. Most of the employers will not support nominee programs, so I moved to Nova Scotia and obtained my permanent residency status in 2017. Looking back at my life since being in Nova Scotia, early on I worked at a gas station on Bayers Road in Halifax, right outside the VON Greater Halifax office. Wow....and now, I am part of our VON family. :)

Shari, National Director, Nurse Practitioner Professional Practice, Peterborough, ON

How long have you been with VON?
I started with VON in 2013 at the 360 Nurse Practitioner-led Clinic in Peterborough, Ontario. After about six months, the posting for my current position appeared, and I applied and – lo and behold – was offered the position. The first few years, I reported directly to Sharon G., then Vice President, Home and Community Care. Most people may not realize that Sharon is a Nurse Practitioner, so as a nurse leader and being a Nurse Practitioner, her mentorship was incredibly valuable. I left VON for about six weeks a few years ago and when I returned I reported to Irene H. and became part of the Practice, Quality and Risk (PQR) team. This has been such a wonderful move for me. I’ve learned a great deal about myself, the organization and the vast scope of PQR. 

I also spent some time covering the Director, Professional Practice and Education position while it was empty and was filling this role when the pandemic first started. Irene was actually on a beach so I was covering for her as well, so those first couple of weeks in February were intense. 

Why did you choose a career in nursing? 
I’d like to say it was for altruistic reasons but that would be disingenuous. I returned to school when my youngest son (who is now almost 40) went into grade one. I had to take something that would guarantee me a living wage – that was nursing. 

What is the best piece of advice someone has given you or that you could give someone else about nursing? 
Never stop learning and never stop being curious. When you do, it may be time to look for another career. Also, I would say that the feminism movement is important for new nurses to be aware of, whether you’re male or female. 

What do you like to do for fun outside of work? 
Garden, kayak, and read (I am a voracious reader). I am also a lover of trivia and am one of those people who has a lot of knowledge about things most people don’t care about. That means I’m good for a trivia team.

Can you think of a time or moment that stands out that brought a smile to your face at work? 
I try to make laugher an everyday part of my life, whether at work or at home. Most recently, I shared a YouTube video with some colleagues which made me laugh out loud. This is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9bPvTC4TEQ if you want to have a laugh!

What do you find is the most rewarding part about being a nurse? 
I am a Nurse Practitioner (“NP”), therefore an advanced-practice nurse. People tend to address NPs at times as “doctor” and I always correct them because I am very proud of being, first and foremost, a nurse. Making a change in people’s lives, whether clients or staff, is definitely the most rewarding part. We are so privileged to be part of people’s lives during some of their most challenging times. Helping people through that is what “people-centered care” is all about. I am so excited that VON is adopting the people-centered care philosophy.

Sarah, LPN, Annapolis Valley, NS

How long have you been with VON?
I've been with VON for over 11 years. I am also a First Aid/CPR instructor through St. John Ambulance. I instruct and certify all of the field staff at the VON Annapolis Valley site.

Why did you choose a career in nursing?
I chose nursing because I have a fascination with physiology and the human body. I also feel I can connect with almost all people on some level. Nursing is a career in which you are forever learning and being challenged. It forces you to grow as an individual, knowing that every day I go to work, I can make a positive impact in the lives I encounter.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given you or that you could give someone else about nursing?
The best piece of advice I've received over the years has been from clients. There’s nothing that they've come out and said to me, but I've learned lessons from them that I try to live by:

  • They have taught me that listening is more important than talking
  • They have taught me to try to be present in every moment
  • They have taught me that life is about the actual journey
  • They have taught me to be kind in every possible situation because it does make a difference in the world.

What do you like to do for fun outside of work?
I'm a nature girl. I love being in the woods hiking – that's where I'm at most peace.

Can you think of a time or moment that stands out that brought a smile to your face at work?
When I can bring a smile to a client's face, or brighten their day, it brings a smile to mine. It's a win-win! 

What do you find is the most rewarding part about being a nurse?
I am grateful to be able to go to work every day. The most rewarding part of being a nurse is having the opportunity to meet so many people and their families, knowing that my intentions are to make a positive impact or better their lives in that moment. I feel privileged to be able to do what I do.

Katie, RPN Team Lead, Sudbury, ON

Why did you choose a career in nursing?
Since I was a young child I always said I would be nurse when I got older. I was always taking care of my four siblings’ cuts and scrapes from a very young age. I have always loved to help others. I never imagined being anything other than a nurse.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given you or that you could give someone else about nursing?
Nursing is a work of the heart. It is not a career that you can do just for a pay cheque, it is something you truly have to enjoy.

What do you like to do for fun outside of work?
A work-life balance is always challenging in the health care field, but it is a very important part self-care. Over the last decade I have managed to find a balance. In my personal time I enjoy spending time with my siblings. I also play soccer every summer (every summer but 2020, of course). Most of all there is nothing I enjoy more than a quiet weekend at home with my husband and our three dogs.

Can you think of a time or moment that stands out that brought a smile to your face at work?
Recently, I was able to arrange services for a client, who, due to personal circumstances would have been in crisis by the end of the week. I assessed her on a Wednesday and was able to start services on Friday. It makes me happy to know that I can still make a difference in peoples’ lives although I am no longer on the front line.

What do you find is the most rewarding part about being a nurse?
The most rewarding part of being a nurse has always been the difference I make people’s lives.

David, RN, Yarmouth, NS

How long have you been with VON? 
I’ve been with VON for three years. I worked for two years as a Client Service Associate while I was in nursing school, and have been employed as an RN for just over a year.

Why did you choose a career in nursing?
Prior to my nursing career, I was a web developer for approximately five years. I worked remotely for a company based out of San Francisco. While I did well, I found that IT didn't lend well to my outgoing and personable nature. I really wanted to meet new people and connect, which eventually led me into my nursing career.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given you or that you could give someone else about nursing?
Honestly, the best advice I received was "You work when you work, and when you're off, you're off." I used to find myself always following up with patients on my off time or spending my days off looking at my schedule and planning out my days. Keeping the above quote in mind has helped me stay grounded.

What do you like to do for fun outside of work?
I recently have taken up hunting, but mostly I like being with my wife and friends. I like to do anything social.

Can you think of a time or moment that stands out that brought a smile to your face at work?
I can't think of just one example as there are so many. The funny experiences that I have encountered are things my clients say. I often feel as if I'm living an episode of "patients say the ‘darndest’ things."

What do you find is the most rewarding part about being a nurse?
I have found that my most rewarding experiences have been tied into palliative care. I take pride in being able to ease any suffering my patients are experiencing, and I like to be there and connect with my patients and their families.

Denise, RPN, Porcupine, ON

How long have you been with VON?
I've been working for VON for four years. Prior to that, I worked in the operating room for 18 years, but I missed the hands-on nursing work. 

Have you held any other roles at VON aside from your current one?
I have not yet held any other roles in VON but am taking the SWAN course (Specialized Wound Associate Nurse) and am advancing my knowledge in palliative care, and I’m involved in MAiD.

Why did you choose a career in nursing?
Nursing was an easy career choice for me as I grew up with my mom being a nurse. I've always thrived to be as compassionate as her in my nursing career. She is and remains my hero. Living in the far north in my twenties, I came to realize how very little health care reached these areas and feel very fortunate to be able to offer my nursing skills and care and to make a difference for so many clients. 

What is the best piece of advice someone has given you or that you could give someone else about nursing?
The best pieces of advice someone has given me is to not feel ashamed to show your emotions to your clients…cry when the need arises, they will appreciate your compassion, and to maintain the dignity of your client in ALL circumstances.

The best piece of advice I could give is to be confident, especially during these difficult times. Clients are looking up to you – in some cases, you are the only one they see for days. 

What do you like to do for fun outside of work?
Fun? Outside of work? That's a hard one to answer as you are all well aware of the pandemic and the impact it has had on home care nurses. We have all been afraid, doubtful and working so hard with many hours, from management to field staff, that I cannot remember 'fun after work'. But I live up north, off-grid, in the 'bush or 'boondocks' as my city friend calls it. To me, fun is tending the garden, walks with my dogs, playing with the wildlife and enjoying four wheeler rides and sunsets with my cowboy! And Facetiming with my parents, brother, daughters and granddaughters.

Can you think of a time or moment that stands out that brought a smile to your face at work?
This is a hard question to answer because my clients and coworkers make me smile every day! 

What do you find is the most rewarding part about being a nurse?
One of my passions in nursing is palliative care. I find it very rewarding to grant my clients’ dying wish to be at home in their final moments. When families thank me, I always thank them for allowing me to be part of such a special and private time in their lives. This I find rewarding and humbling. 

Jasmine, RN, Belleville, ON

How long have you worked at VON?
I have worked with VON for a little over one year as an RN.

Why did you choose a career in nursing?
I chose a career in nursing because I always liked science and I wanted to play my part in health care by guiding people to take their health into their own hands, or to help them when they can't always do it themselves.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given you or that you could give someone else about nursing?
The best piece of advice I've received for nursing is to not be too hard on myself! I like to do a good job for myself and for my clients, but as long as I'm doing what I believe is best for them, that's what matters.

What do you find is the most rewarding part about being a nurse?
Whenever I create a close working relationship with clients, it warms my heart when they say I've done a good job or that I've done something for them that has improved their care.

When you’re not caring for clients, what do you do for fun outside of work?
I like to take time for self-care outside of work so that I am refreshed and ready to provide good care. Outside of work, I like to explore the outdoors with jogs, camping, or road trips. I love movies and good food (both eating and making it). And, most importantly, I love spending time with the ones I love most!

Nancy, RN, Cape Breton, NS

How long have you worked at VON?
I have been an RN with VON for the last 25 years and for the past number of years I have been the Cape Breton Metro wound care site lead, which is very challenging but rewarding. I love passing on little tricks of the trade and educational tools to new staff members.

Why did you choose a career in nursing?
When I graduated from high school, I pursued an education in business, but soon found it was not what interested me. My mom was a VON Nurse and she was definitely my role model. Her patients still comment on what a wonderful nurse she was! I like to think that she passed her work ethic and good values onto me.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given you or that you could give someone else about nursing?
The best advice I could give about nursing is to always treat people the way you would want to be treated, or how you would want your own loved ones treated. Nursing becomes chaotic at times and time management can become difficult, but never let that be your defining obstacle…kindness is free.

When you’re not caring for clients, what do you do for fun outside of work?
When not working, I enjoy spending time with my family; my husband, my two daughters, and our dog, especially on a beautiful day on the Mira River, followed by a bonfire at night!

Nursing was what I was meant to do.

Jonathan, RN, Greater Toronto Area

How long have you worked at VON? 
I started as a visiting nurse with VON in 2017 after a few years as a nursing supervisor with other service provider organizations. I wanted to return to my roots in patient care and I liked what my colleagues had told me about VON; we have a positive team culture and our structure allows nurses to be patient-focused. 

Why did you choose a career in nursing? 
Twenty five years ago I changed my vocation from art to nursing, wanting to make what I felt was a more meaningful difference in the world. I still enjoy my art and I unwind by camping and cycling with my wife and two daughters. 

I believe that one of the greatest assets in the nursing profession is its diversity. It provides you with so many options, and I have tried a few such as: ICU, cardiology, corrections, clinic management and now home care. I also followed my desire to work abroad from New York, to Saudi Arabia, to China. I found that no matter how different approaches to health care and wellness can be, each society works toward the same goals and share similar values. 

What do you find is the most rewarding part about being a nurse? 
A few weeks ago, I supported a family through the decline and death of their 95-year-old patriarch, dying where he wanted to which was peacefully at home, with his family. Today, I was able to convince a patient to go to the ER despite earlier refusals which put himself at risk as he was home alone suffering from substance abuse and a recent decline in health. Last week my patient, an 85 year-old gentleman receiving IV antibiotics shared a life revelation that at 70 years old, he realized that he identified as a woman and his family has come to accept this. 

As a nurse, we never stop learning, and not just in medical or technical education, but we grow in our tolerance, communication and understanding. I wake up every day looking forward to the adventure, not knowing what excitement the nursing experience will unfold.

Kaili, Nurse Manager, Greater Halifax, NS

The profile below was written by Sara Clarke, a Public Relations student at Mount Saint Vincent University. Sara interviewed Kaili as part of an assignment for her writing class, and gave VON permission to share.

“Some say that health care workers have the hardest job out there. That they could never work the hours and put in the efforts that those working in health care do. For Kaili, a nurse manager at VON, she would tell you the opposite. 

When Kaili started working at the VON four years ago, she fell in love with everything about her job – from the culture, to her strong, compassionate colleagues, to keeping clients safe, happy and healthy. Kaili describes the VON as a family. “Everyone’s ultimate goal is to support one another. People from all departments within the VON work together to face challenges and help others,” said Kaili.

For Kaili, every day on the job is a bit different. You may find her in her office talking with clients and their families, answering questions and helping them with anything they may need. She may be supporting nurses in their daily duties by answering clinical questions, scheduling management or education, or in meetings collaborating with her management colleagues. 

Although Kaili sometimes misses her own daily client visits, she takes pride in her position as a Nurse Manager. She enjoys leading her team of dedicated nurses, and her daily interactions with her coworkers, clients and their families. She also enjoys strategizing and facing new challenges with her team.  

When asked what inspires her most about her work, Kaili said, “Everyone coming to work every day to do their part in helping clients stay safe and happy.” It means a lot to Kaili to work in an environment that allows clients to be seen in their own homes. There will always be challenges along the way, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. 

The VON works to provide not only its clients, but its employees, partners and volunteers with the upmost love and support. Kaili plays an important role in in that. She works hard to make an impact on others every single day. Her passion and dedication inspire others to be their best selves.” – Sara Clarke, Student, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax

Laura, Peterborough, ON

CBC Toronto profiled VON nurse, Laura, from Peterborough, ON earlier this month.

Sitting in self-isolation after a trip to Mexico in early March, Laura worried about not being there for her patients and fellow nurses, says her ‘mother-in-love’ Susan, “with growing concerns about the lack of PPE (personal protective equipment)... she and other VON staff are literally risking their own health to help others,” Susan said. “She’s an absolutely incredible nurse.”

Thankfully, Kelly is back on the front line after completing her two weeks quarantine and testing negative for COVID-19. With one obstacle down, Taylor says there’s another, life-long task she wants to see completed, “we’re hoping she will be our daughter-in-law in the not too distant future. We absolutely adore her.”

CBC Toronto’s Front-line Heroes series recognizes workers on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic across the GTA. You can read more stories and nominate a hero on their Instagram account, here. 

Tracy, RN, Peterborough, ON

How long have you worked at VON? 
I have been at VON for 21 years with the RN visiting program.

Why did you choose a career in nursing?
I was a hospital volunteer in high school. I became a nurse because I have always liked the caregiver role. I get satisfaction out of helping people and teaching them how to manage their health.

Can you think of a time or moment that stands out that brought a smile to your face at work?
There are many things on a daily basis that bring a smile to my face. I really enjoy my patients. In one particular case, I had a paediatric diabetic child in kindergarten. I would see him for insulin administration at his school. When he went into grade one I was no longer his primary nurse anymore, but I did get in to see him one day…he came running to me yelling my name, gave me a big hug and said how much he missed me. That really made my day. 

The patients I care for really appreciate what we do for them and are extremely thankful for the care we provide. I always remind them that it's a joint effort between them and their family, along with the nursing team, which helps them to feel better and healed.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given you or that you could give someone else about nursing?
Always remember that every person has a story and what we may perceive on the outside isn’t always what is going on with each person and their family/support system.

When you’re not caring for clients, what do you do for fun outside of work?
My enjoyment outside of work is spending time with my family, as well as camping and reading. Currently, my husband and I are building our home ourselves, so that has been quite fun swinging hammers, using saws, etc. It’s amazing to see what we can create through manual labour.

What do you find is the most rewarding part about being a nurse?
There are many aspects of what we do that are rewarding, such as educating patients on how to care for themselves, whether it’s skin care, post-op care, chemo treatment care, etc. It’s amazing to watch wounds heal and close over. I’ve also had the honour to be involved with palliative patients through their journey toward end-of-life. It gives me great satisfaction to help provide peace and comfort for them.

We really have a great team of nurses at VON, and the support we all provide each other helps make me a better nurse and person.

 

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