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.” 

Healthy Balance with Tara Antle

By Mariana Hernández-Hernández, WorkStory Ambassador at Memorial University

Tara Antle’s work story is an excellent example of initiative, proactivity, and of how one experience (whether it be volunteering, work or school) can take us to the next one. Her work story also shows us how it is possible to do what we love as a job and even turn it into an entrepreneurial endeavour.

Tara is a Nutritionist whose weekly activities include private nutrition consultations, providing grocery store tours, hosting kitchen parties, giving cooking lessons, and organizing seminars and workplace wellness programs.

She’s also a regular guest on Rogers TV’s Out of the Fog (monthly segment called “Healthy Bellies”), Cross Talk on CBC’s Radio Noon with Ramona Deering, the CBC Morning Show with Anthony Germain, The NTV Evening News and Here and Now on CBC. Moreover, her articles and interviews have been published locally, provincially and nationally in The Telegram, NL Wellness Guide, The Downhomer, Fresh Juice Magazine, Atlantic Law Enforcement magazine and The Newfoundland Herald.

How did she get here?

When Tara graduated from high school in the city of St. John’s, Newfoundland, she didn’t know what type of work she wanted to do, so she took a few years to find herself. She devoted her time to volunteering with Helping Hands and The Community Services Council, working full time in retail, studying General Medical Sciences and taking evening courses at Memorial University of Newfoundland, which eventually evolved to full time General Studies.

Five years after being involved in these activities - and mainly because of her volunteer experience - Tara realized that she wanted to do something related to health care. She chose the Applied Human Nutrition program (BSc.AHN) at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax and was able to transfer all her credits from Memorial University. During her full time studies in Nutrition, she took elective courses in Business, worked as a Residence Assistant, and helped raise funds for scholarships and bursaries with the Alumni Association.

Every summer, Tara returned home to Newfoundland and held different jobs. The summer before graduation, she had the chance to work for the federal Public Works and Government Services as part of their student program, and after university graduation, she was offered a full time position. This experience led to an opportunity working in finance with the federal government in Newfoundland, and it, in turn, led to a government position in Ottawa as a Financial Officer! While working in her new role in Ottawa, Tara studied full time during the evenings at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and earned her Diploma of Natural Nutrition (Holistic Nutrition).

Later, Tara became one of the three Nutritionists that were hired by Shoppers Drug Mart for a pilot project.  She was responsible for the Ottawa region and her duties involved helping build a clientele, developing and delivering health and nutrition seminars in the community, acting as a liaison and team member with local physicians and pharmacists, creating in-store educational displays, and facilitating sampling of products.

After being away from Newfoundland for ten years, Tara decided to move back with the intention of eventually starting her own business. Once in St. John’s, she worked as a Nutritionist for a company for a couple of years and then left to develop the business plan for her own private practice. Seven months later, her dream became a reality as she began Healthy Balance. With more than 15 years of experience, six years of formal education in Dietetics, Holistic Nutrition and Health Studies, Tara’s private practice has been successfully flourishing for the past six years.

When Tara was studying nutrition as an undergraduate student, she was often questioned about her choice and was told by some that she was wasting her time. She stayed firm with her decision, however, and continued doing what she loved. Now, nutrition is gaining more and more attention and is even considered something ‘trendy.’ Today no one would question its importance as a field of study and interest.

When I asked Tara if she had any advice for students seeking the ‘right’ career path, she said: Do what you love and the rest will follow as long as you take the right steps to find an employment opportunity that works for you. Skill sets are transferrable to each new opportunity that exists. Be patient, persistent and keep a positive attitude. Her career path is good proof of that as Tara enjoys her job so much that it doesn’t feel like work!

To learn more about Tara and what she does, check out her website at www.healthy-balance.ca.

 

 

Caitlin Schultz’s Journey to a New Area of Healthcare

By Emma Kushnir, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Caitlin Schultz’s career has progressed into something even more exciting than she had originally pictured. She attended Fanshawe College from 2007 to 2010 and studied Respiratory Therapy. This is a three-year program – and the last year is all clinical work. Her placements were at University Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital and the Stratford General Hospital. After her placements ended, Caitlin secured a position as a Respiratory Therapist at University Hospital, and worked there for five years. She also worked at Stratford Hospital and Alexandra Marine & General Hospital, in Goderich, as a Charge Respiratory Therapist. 

Then Caitlin’s journey took a new direction – to a newly created position at London Health Sciences Centre: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Patient Navigator.  COPD is a disease that is 80%-90% caused from smoking and doesn’t typically onset before age 40. As a chronic condition, it can be managed, but not cured. So, patient care is based on disease management and patients need help with that.

Caitlin’s job is to work with COPD patients under the Respirology Service. A big part of her job is teaching patients.  She does patient consultations that involve education about COPD, self-management skills, community resources and discharge readiness.  After patients are discharged from hospital, she continues to follow up with them by phone to ensure smooth transitions.  Since the job is fairly new, and she is the first one to step into the role at London Health Sciences Centre, another big part involves developing projects and new initiatives.  These include things like a connecting-to-home initiative, standardizing education for COPD patients, and creating a clinical pathway for patients to follow. Caitlin is a certified respiratory educator in both asthma and COPD.  In addition to this ­– and her respiratory therapy training – she sees the special skills required for her job are patience and a genuine desire to help people improve their own lives.

Many events and people inspired Caitlin on her journey to this career. When she learned that her younger brother had asthma, and he had to get pulmonary function testing, that is when she learned about respiratory therapy. In Grade 12, she was interested in health care, but didn’t want to become a nurse.  She did some research and got her first glimpse of respiratory therapy. A neighbor worked as a respiratory therapist at Goderich Hospital, and so –  pro tip! – Caitlin job-shadowed him. This proved helpful in choosing to study Respirator Therapy in college and she felt confident and happy in the choice.

After college, the connections and experiences from University Hospital, Goderich Hospital and Stratford General Hospital, helped Caitlin decide exactly what she wanted to do.  In those organizations, she had broad experiences –  everything from acute to chronic disorders, and inpatient to outpatient settings.  When she heard about the job opportunity as a COPD Navigator, she was already doing some COPD education in Stratford – and she realized patient education interested most. It just made sense!

When asked what she loves about the job, Caitlin says that it’s “the change made with the patients, when from start to finish there is visible improvement, and satisfaction from it. It is very rewarding being able to improve patients’  experiences, and engage them in their care, especially when you can see how much more comfortable they are about going home and being at home. You really get to know some of the patients and it is so rewarding being a constant person for them in the hospital. Patients need continuity of care and integration of care.”  She also explains she loves seeing the changes in the hospital, as initiatives start to happen, and witnessing the hospital become more patient focused.

Deciding to drop everything and commit to an environment that was outside of her comfort zone was the biggest challenge in getting to where she is now. Having to give up her other jobs was hard.  Taking a jump in the hope that it would work out was huge. Caitlin had never worked at Victoria Hospital before, and it was a big decision to commute over an hour to work every day.  Further, many things that she is doing now would have intimidated her a while ago – such as all the presentations and public speaking. She worked her way into it slowly, each presentation getting a little bit bigger.

Caitlin’s advice for those interested in healthcare?  “Think outside the box when it comes to health care jobs!  There is a lot more in health care than just the front-line stuff you typically see and hear about – such specialty jobs…Definitely job shadow! You can do research, but it’s hard to know until you get into the action. So any chance you get at seeing things firsthand – take it!” 

“Cheerleaders in Nearly Every Corner”: Tito’s Story

By Katie Chalmers-Brooks

 Photo by: Nardella Photography

Photo by: Nardella Photography

Growing up, Tito Daodu could have easily gotten stuck in a rut by focusing on what she didn’t have: much money or a sense of safety in the rough Winnipeg neighbourhood she called home. Getting dressed in the morning meant being mindful not to wear gang colours.  She had to make sure she walked back quickly to her apartment after school. She was well versed in her classmates’ personal connections to the stories on the six o’clock news—‘the guy arrested for a stabbing was so-and-so’s cousin.’ “All of those things felt close to home,” says Daodu.

So too did everything the 28-year-old doctor feels helped her to succeed. Daodu likens herself to a lottery winner—lucky because she had cheerleaders in nearly every corner. “I had a lot of people in my life who said I could achieve whatever I wanted.” She didn’t see getting into trouble as an option; her Nigerian-born mother made sure of that. Her mom’s voice would override those of her school chums, many of whom saw a trip to Juvenile Detention as a rite of passage. Daodu had bigger plans. And she had mentor Ken Opaleke at West Broadway Youth Outreach to help her on her path. She was in Grade 3 when Opaleke called out to her and her sister, Dupe, from across the street, inviting them to join the neighbourhood’s after-school club. Daodu did and has never really left. “I have had the pleasure of seeing her grow from a shy, energetic, nine year- old participant in the program to a now caring, selfless young woman who a great number of inner-city children have come to emulate and rely on, not only for academic and physical guidance but on a personal level as well,” says Opaleke.

Daodu went from mentee to mentor and launched a homework club at the centre, forming meaningful connections to kids as she helped them through mundane school assignments. Daodu says she would be hard on the kids when they didn’t “try to achieve”, just as Opaleke was hard on her. Daodu went to St. Mary’s Academy on bursaries, steadily inching her way toward university. When she earned her degree in medicine from the University of Manitoba in 2013, more than a dozen West Broadway kids showed up at convocation, rooting for “doctor number 2.” (Daodu is the second West Broadway ‘graduate’ to become a physician.) “Quite a few of them have said, ‘I want to be doctor number 5 or I’m going to be doctor number 7,” says Daodu. “When I go back I try to instill in them that this is totally achievable. I look at those kids and I think ‘I was exactly that kid.’” She is now doing her residency in general surgery in Calgary while chipping away at a master’s in international surgical care.

To Daodu, it makes perfect sense to seek out a problem and then try to be part of the solution. As a med student, she made a cold call to a researcher featured in a documentary about the shockingly high number of pneumonia deaths among children in Nigeria, her native country. “It was staggering to me that 200,000 children under age five die of pneumonia every year. In Canada, it would be unheard of for a child to die of pneumonia without any other complications,” she says. Daodu asked the researcher if she could come to Nigeria and help; he obliged. The hospital featured in the film happened to be the one where Daodu was born. She was just four when her mom left the country, which was then under a dictatorship, with her and her sister. (They lived in Jamaica and England before settling for good in Winnipeg, where Daodu’s uncle could be their sponsor. Her father joined them years later.)

The state of care at the Nigerian hospital shocked Daodu. In the first week, she witnessed the deaths of six children from conditions that could have easily been treated in North America: pneumonia, tetanus and malaria. “I had no idea what widespread, systematic poverty looked like on the ground,” she says. Minimum wage there is a paltry 100 dollars a month yet patients are required to buy their own medical supplies. Daodu dipped into her own wallet to stock up on syringes, gloves and needles. If a child needed a transfusion it was up to the parents to coax family and friends to donate blood. If there was a power outage, test results were simply unavailable.  Doctors there have the knowledge, Daodu explains, but no resources. She was there to investigate oxygen treatments for kids with pneumonia, specifically machines that convert ambient air into oxygen, a less expensive alternative to oxygen tanks. It took her a month and a half to get a backup generator in the room so they would work in a power outage, a routine occurrence.  Her frustration grew when she realized a separate, private ward within the same hospital was well-stocked for patients who could afford it.

The experience reinforced Daodu’s desire to help improve health-care systems in developing countries. She wants to work on international surgical education projects in impoverished regions to ensure first responders are properly trained in basic, life-saving procedures like inserting chest tubes. The World Health Organization identified surgical care among the globe’s top five pressing healthcare needs. The reality is: simple surgeries are getting missed and the consequences can be personally devastating. A patient with something as minor as a hernia—left surgically untreated—might go decades unable to work and be shunned by his community, Daodu notes. She also wants to offer her surgical skills in disaster zones. This fall, she is headed to Haiti, a country still shattered by 2010’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake. “As a surgeon, you really have an ability to make an impact,” she says. Daodu knows it takes leadership to act on these kinds of opportunities. She defines a good leader as someone who is “willing to take in and adapt to the changes that are presented along the way, without giving up.” It’s a philosophy that’s guided her throughout her life and, she’s happy to say, some of the kids from her old neighbourhood too. While studying in University Centre one day, Daodu bumped into a former participant of her West Broadway homework buddies group. Daodu had lost touch with the girl when she stopped coming to the centre as a teen so was thrilled to see she made it to university. The student had faced, and clearly overcome, a lot of the same challenges Daodu did. “It was pretty exciting to see that she had continued on and was doing well,” Daodu says. “It was awesome.”

This story, reprinted with permission of the University of Manitoba, originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of On ManitobaTito Daodu, a 2013 University of Manitoba grad (MD; BSc[Med]), was honored recently as one of the university’s Outstanding Young Alumni.

 

A Clinical Counsellor’s Perspective: Lanie’s Story

By Emma Kushnir, WorkStory Ambassador

Lanie Schachter-Snipper’s adventure in life and academics has been vast and amazing. After finishing her undergraduate degree from McGill University in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, she took a huge break doing various jobs ranging from teaching first grade in Honduras to running a cultural art tour business in Cuba. She then went back to school at the City University of Seattle for a Master’s degree in Clinical Counselling and Psychology, and finally to Yale School of Medicine to complete a fellowship in the Forensic Drug Diversion Program.

Now settled with a family in Toronto, Lanie is working as a full time clinical counselor for Shepell.fgi providing assessment and crisis intervention for employee assistance.  But her real baby is a non-profit organization Upfront Counselling and Management that she and a criminal defense lawyer founded in 2014. The organization provides psychological support for court-involved individuals who are charged with crimes involving aggression, with a primary focus on domestic abuse and substance abuse.  Offenders are referred by their lawyer, and partake in individual or group counseling that is therapeutic in nature, which is different than other organizations that exist in Toronto.

When asked why she got into the profession of psychology especially after so much different work, she answered that “from a young age I was always interested in deviance, people who broke the law, and crime in general.” As for the making the decision to do a masters program in psychology, she divulged that she applied to many different types of masters and international programs because she knew she needed to do something and was interested in a lot. She explains “in my case it really worked out and my work is really rewarding. I can’t imagine doing anything else, but it is very challenging and draining, and can be overwhelming.”

 Speaking about the many challenges that comes with the job, she explained that boundaries are hard, “I am fairly good at having a challenging work day and not spending a ton of time thinking about it, so having good self care and maintaining healthy boundaries is very important.” She also clarified that you must set realistic clinical expectations “you have to be realistic of what you can accomplish with people such as those who are living in poverty. One of the hardest things is knowing there are limits to which you can help people.”

Though with the challenging, comes the rewarding. She explained that “everyday I work, I get some feedback that the time I have spent talking to a client has been positive in some way. Whether there is an opportunity to vent or validating feelings, on a daily basis, even if it is subtle, I see the work I’m doing is meaningful to someone. There are moments today at the very least, this person isn’t going to kill themselves. Plus there is always new stuff coming up like new protocols and approaches, which makes it not the very least boring.”

As for people who are interested in this line of work her advice is: “you have to understand how complex people are, no matter how much learning you will do, every single person is unique and needs special attention. In this field you need a certain amount of stamina, energy, and a lot of compassion.” For others seeking out what to do, Lanie offered the advice: “Don’t rush. It can be easy to hurry into things because careers are appealing, but the importance of the in-between gets lost, and it’s an important time. I took so long to figure out what I wanted to do. Meet people travelling, work in different places and environments. Explore and be curious, and learn as much as you can about the wider world and your community. The more experiences you have, the better you will be in any job.”

Every Day is Different: Ben’s Paramedic Story

Ben Kenter has been a paramedic with the Ottawa Paramedic Service for about a year.  So far, it seems that things are going well for this 25-year old Fanshawe College grad.  He’s helping people every day, working with a great professional team, and doing rewarding and challenging work.  And, as he told Iris Winston, there is lots of variety!


“The only thing that is the same is how a day starts. You come, do your truck check to make sure everything is up to snuff. After that, you are briefed on road construction and anything else that is likely to affect your day…” [then] “nothing is typical”.


Have a look as Iris Winston shares more about Ben and the growth in career opportunities in paramedicine – where one has to “expect the unexpected every day."

Healing Waters

by Carol Crenna

Chelsea Kanstrup (BCom ’12) is in for the long haul. Three years ago, Kanstrup started with the privately -funded charity Mercy Ships as a cooperative student. After graduating, her dedication and passion were recognised and she was hired as director of Donor Relations.  

In fact, working in non-profit management was one of her goals when choosing UVic’s BCom program. Business Class caught up with Kanstrup to find out about Mercy Ships and why she decided to embark on the voyage.

What Does This Organization Do?

Mercy Ships is a privately-funded charity that sends hospital ships with medical teams to impoverished countries to provide free medical care, physician training, and community support. It has 16 global offices including Mercy Ships Canada, based in Victoria. Its Africa Mercy is the world’s largest charity hospital ship, staffed by 1,600 volunteers from around the world.  

How Has It Made a Difference?

In existence for 35 years, Mercy Ships has treated 572,000 patients in 54 countries, conducted 67,000 surgeries, delivered services to over 2.42 million, valued at over $1 billion. It serves people free-of-charge without regard for race or religion.

Why Was It Launched?

Mercy Ships was started by an American Christian group to serve the estimated one billion people who lack basic healthcare, particularly in Africa, where 50 percent of the population has no access to a doctor. The organization deemed that a ship is the most efficient platform to deliver a state-of-the-art hospital because 75 per cent of the world’s population lives within 150 kilometres of a port city.

What Results Have You Seen?

When in Congo, I saw a blind mother being led by her young daughter to the ship to have cataract surgery. After surgery, she regained her sight, which resulted in her daughter attending school, no longer having to care for her mother, and her mother getting a job to support the family and become a better community member.

I witnessed one-on-one training. In Congo, a doctor from Togo came for cataract surgery training. Before the instruction, it took him 20 minutes to do each surgery; he performed 400 surgeries per year (in 2010). After training, he could complete the procedure in 10 minutes, and this year he performed 2,000 cataract surgeries. He now voluntarily teaches other surgeons.

What Are You Working On?

My third-party fundraising work includes bake sales, discount coupon books, and collaborating with restaurants that donate money from a menu item purchased — small outlets that have added up to substantial funding over time. We also organize campus networks at 11 universities across Canada with hundreds of student volunteers.

Africa Mercy is heading to Cotonou, Benin, where volunteers plan to do over 2,300 surgeries, treat 18,000 at dental and eye clinics, and train 160 Beninois healthcare professionals.

Why Is Philanthropy Important?

It was instilled in me not to take for granted that I was born a woman within a supportive family within a supportive community within a supportive country. It’s not just right to be philanthropic and help others; it makes you feel good.

What appeals to you about working for Mercy Ships?

I love Mercy Ship’s mission; helping so many individuals in need through surgeries is amazing, yet educating individuals increases the capacity of our efforts, and works to stop the need itself. 

This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in Business Class Magazine, a publication of the Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria.