Brittany has been a resident nurse for five years and currently works on the cardiology floor in British Columbia, Canada. We spoke to her to get a little insight into her working life, her relationship with patients and the healthcare system.
“It’s well respected, makes good money and is challenging but not to a point where it is unmanageable”.
People are always concerned about a cliched answer when asked about their motivation to work in healthcare often parroting their predecessors; ‘I want to help people’ but I guess the reason why most people say this is because it’s true. You want to be able to make a lasting impact on someones life for the better. Help to turn it in a new direction, make someone live that much healthier and happier than they did before. She always held the profession in high esteem, it’s well respected, makes good money and is challenging but not to a point where it is unmanageable. With all these positives it’s hard to see why it is a profession plagued with recruitment difficulties and high drop out levels.
Brittany tells us about her exasperation when things don’t get done fast enough and people have to wait for services they are in desperate need of especially when it comes to mental health and geriatrics.
“The baby boomers are coming of age now and there is nowhere for them to go”
In the cardiology department, patients can wait 3-4 days for an angiogram which sometimes, in their eyes, is too long and the nurses constantly have to explain to the stable patients waiting on the wards that more urgent cases have come in and have to take the available slots. Despite this, everyone does get the treatment they need within a mater of days and it doesn’t cost anything.
There are plenty of other issues too especially when it comes to discharging patients. The baby boomers are coming of age now and there is nowhere for them to go and combine that with limited availability of home supports and you have people stuck in hospital for a while who don’t need to be there. It is difficult when IV drug users come in with endocarditis and only stay for half their treatment and the staff spend their time willing them to stay in and get healthy. Often its the patients that may be perceived as ‘briging it upon themselves’ who have been failed by the healthcare system somewhere in the past, this is our time to make up for that and provide them with the best possible care, despite it maybe being unwanted.
We wanted to find out a bit more about the population she serves, having worked in the Philippines, Nepal and the UK, how does Canada compare?
“In general Canadians are pretty healthy, they know whats good and bad for them and take some responsibility for their health but there is still huge room for improvement.”
Community teaching and education is clearly a huge priority now. Her own ward provides in house teaching before discharge, such a signs and symptoms of worsening heart failure, when you should go to your family doctor and the appropriate time to come straight to hospital.
What about the medias portrayal and public’s perception of the profession?
Inevitably there was a comparison to Gray’s Anatomy. I think anyone that works in the healthcare profession clearly sees the inaccuracies of the programme. People think the doctors do most of the work but in reality, especially in North America, Canada and the UK, the physicians spend about 5 minutes with every patient whereas the nurses spend the whole 12 hours. Levels of care are different in different countries but the nurses do most of the work and unless you work in healthcare yourself, no one sees that. **
Brittany loves day to day life in Canada as a nurse, taking the bad with the good is all part of the job. She puts an enormous pressure on herself to get everything done to the highest standard and makes it her priority to meet patients and relatives expectations but sometimes they can be unrealistic.
“People yell and get angry for things and you have to be at the other end of it placating them even if you think they are being unreasonable.”
There are some funny times too, Brittany has had marriage proposals, patients say funny things and it’s good to have a bit of comedic relief in the day.
Brittany sings the praises of the care aids on the ward who work so hard and have impossible expectations, it is hard for them especially as they are, in most peoples opinion, grossly underpaid and overworked.
We explored some of the things people could do in the community to help themselves and improve their health and obviously more exercise and eating healthily were top of our list of tips but people can go further than that, getting involved in groups and activities, finding a support network of people who share your interests can improve both your physical and mental health. Meditation and yoga are two things that are beginning to be promoted more in order to help people relax and cope with the stresses of day to day life in productive ways rather than turning to cigarettes or alcohol. At the end of the day, there will always be people who can’t look after themselves, young kids with suicidal ideation and extensive family issues just don’t get the support they need in the community and they will keep coming back in, it is really sad.
Despite all the problems, Brittany loves her job and still sees herself ward nursing in ten years time or potentially considering a position with slightly more responsibility such as patient care coordinator. She encourages everyone to consider any kind of medical career but to get a thorough idea of what the job entails before going in to it. It’s a hard profession to work in, thats for sure, but there are so many avenues each having varying levels of responsibility.
Nurses and physicians have an element of moral distress to cope with than perhaps a sonographer who performs ultrasound scans. Obstetricians and midwives get to share the happiest moments of peoples lives when they bring new babies into the world, each has its own draws. Job satisfaction is definitely important and knowing you are taking home a decent wage at the end of a hard week helps to work a bit harder despite sometimes being kicked into the ground.
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** If you’d like some lighthearted entertainment, check out this video Brittany directed us to.
(Not to be taken too seriously)