From the outback to the operating room:
My journey as a nurse
By the time I turned 5, I knew I would be a nurse—and the inspiration came from my mother. We lived in the outback of Queensland, Australia, in an area served by a tiny community hospital with a visiting doctor and a small nursing staff. Among them was my mother—a registered nurse and midwife—who filled my head with incredible stories. Like helping people until emergency care arrived, usually by helicopter. Or the miracle of delivering a baby with no one else around.
From high school I went straight to nursing school, and after receiving my Certificate in Nursing, I practiced as a registered nurse at a private hospital in Brisbane. Here I discovered what would later become my specialty, the operating room.
But first, I had to earn my Bachelor of Nursing degree, which meant working four days a week, attending evening classes four nights a week and, in my spare time, competing in triathlons in a tough, six-day training schedule. This taught me discipline and planning to ensure that my assignments were completed on time and all of my responsibilities were met.
Soon after receiving my degree in 1993, I was placed in charge of 10 operating rooms on the evening shift. Though quite young, I saw this as another opportunity to learn, grow and gain the respect of more-experienced nurses. And in 1996, I began working towards an MBA in the hope of joining my hospital’s nursing leadership team.
Unfortunately, I was also becoming disillusioned with operating-room nursing. All too often, I felt like a factory worker on a production line—patient in, patient out. “Next please!” If I couldn’t do my job with genuine enthusiasm, it was time to go. So, I joined a pharmaceutical company as a product specialist, and learned to make presentations, design education sessions, create business plans and work autonomously. But deep down, a part of me was unfulfilled in a world where profits ruled.
Then suddenly, everything changed when my mother had to undergo emergency surgery for a ruptured spleen. Afterwards, unable to breathe on her own, she was placed on a ventilator in Intensive Care where my family and I sat at her bedside, day and night, for two weeks. This is when I realized the importance of the vocation I had left behind. Once again, my mother seemed to be gently guiding me back to nursing.
As she began to breathe on her own, the nurses and my relatives became one big family for the next six weeks. More and more, I felt the power of nursing in my heart and soul, realizing that nursing was never a production line and that I had just lost my focus. I now understood that every patient was different, and each provided a chance to contribute to the healing of patient and family alike.
So I quit my corporate job and joined a nursing agency allowing me to have the flexibility to be with my Mum, and travel internationally with my French Canadian boyfriend. Once my mother was well, I moved to Montreal to be with Louis, who would become my husband. As a double bonus, I also happily found my new work family in the operating rooms of the Jewish General Hospital.
Since joining the JGH in 2002 as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the operating rooms, I’ve had opportunities to create an orientation program for new nurses, implement the Surgical Safety Checklist, contribute to quality improvement projects, and participate in hospital-wide nursing education. To better understand McGill University’s model of nursing, I’ve also completed a Master’s degree in Applied Science at McGill.
Now, as Nursing Coordinator for the Operating Rooms, my challenges range from day-to-day staffing to preparing the team for Surgery’s big move to Pavilion K in 2016. By ensuring that the right systems and processes are in place, I can help nurses deliver the care that patients need in a responsible, cost-effective manner.
I’m reminded of what Sigmund Freud once said: “Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.” I agree, but to describe my life as a nurse, I’d make a slight adjustment: Love of work is the cornerstone of my career.
Nursing Coordinator, Operating Rooms