Knowing You Make a Difference in Someone’s Life: Jessica’s Nursing Story

By Abigayle Walker, WorkStory Ambassador at University of Ottawa

Jessica Cuco is a registered nurse at Montreal General Hospital in the Orthopedic and Trauma units. She encounters several different cases from minor to serious injuries and ailments.  Hearing her describe some of her cases, it would be safe to conclude that her job is not for the squeamish or the faint of heart!

Typically, Jessica’s shifts are either 8 or 12 hours long. At the beginning of a shift, she debriefs with the nurse who worked the previous shift to get updates on her patients and to find out what she has to get done.  She then checks her chart for medical orders that need be picked up. After this, Jessica starts her medication run – delivering and administering medication to her patients, as well as checking their vital signs.  Throughout the rest of her shift, she answers call lights, puts patients on bedpans, and gives out pain medication if needed. When her shift comes to a close, she passes her charts on to the next nurse who is clocking in. 

If another nurse calls in sick and is not replaced for the next shift, Jessica either teams up with other nurses on her shift to lighten the load for the next wave of nurses or works overtime to cover the next shift. As one may guess, hospitals have a constant flow of patients whether they are ICU (intensive care unit), emergency room, or post-operative patients. Nurses, like Jessica, are needed around the clock to tend to them. Jessica says that “there are two sides to unusual days.  There are days where it can be extremely busy, where there is no time to sit down for two minutes, and other days where we can sit for most of our shifts.”

Jessica loves knowing that she can make a difference in someone’s life. She says that the best feeling is seeing a patient from the start to finish…”being able to admit the patient and a week or two later being able to send them home or to rehabilitation to continue their care.”  

When asked about the path to her current role, Jessica described it as a long journey, but that she had always known she wanted to work in Healthcare. During high school, she volunteered at one of the local hospitals.  While at Cégep, she decided that she wanted to get a nursing degree.  Jessica did not get into the program right away; instead, she was placed on a waitlist for the intensive program. Happily, she was accepted into the program and studied for 2 years, even throughout the summer months. At the end of her 2 years, Jessica received her DEC (Diplôme d' étude collégiale), allowing her to be a nurse in Quebec.  She worked for another 2 years to gain practical experience in the field, then went back to get her Bachelor of Nursing ­–  studying online and part-time – while still working full-time. She completed her degree in just 3 years. Jessica had explained that going back to school for her degree expanded the opportunities in her nursing career.  For example, she can now be an assistant head nurse or a clinician nurse. For now, Jessica has decided to remain a bedside nurse, but has been thinking of teaching nursing at the Cégep level.

Jessica’s advice for those who are interested in entering the Healthcare profession?  She stresses that one has to have a passion for caring for others. She goes on to say that someone interested in nursing should not limit oneself to a single area of nursing as “there are a lot of different types of nurses out there and there is a fit for everyone”. Some find their fit right away, while “others need to use trial and error when looking for somewhere to work that fits. That is the beauty in nursing: there is a lot of opportunity to expand your learning.”