What drew you to practice nursing in the Critical Care Unit (CrCU), also referred to as the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)?
I developed my interest in the CrCU in nursing school and was very lucky to start within my first year of practicing. The CrCU is a very fast-paced, highly acute environment where we care for the sickest patients in the hospital during the most vulnerable and critical phase of their illness. It is a journey we take together. Sometimes this means successfully leaving the CrCU, and other times it means their journey ends here with us, and we endeavour to provide respect and comfort in the end-of-life process.
When a patient is admitted to an ICU, it often conjures up anxiety and fear. What do you share with the patient and their family to reassure them that this is the best unit in which to receive care?
It can be terrifying for patients and their families, and there is a great sense of loss of control and feelings of helplessness. This is especially true now when patients are not able to have their families physically with them to provide comfort and support them through their illness. Providing the patient and their family with as much information as possible and listening to their questions, concerns and fears is often very helpful. It’s important to be compassionate, empathetic and supportive. In the CrCU we have always considered our family members to be an integral part of the health care team, and they are remaining actively involved in decision-making in the plan of care for our patients.
As difficult as it is for the patients, we recognize that the family members are also dealing with the fear and anxiety, and they truly need our support. We encourage them to call as often as they would like for updates, arrange FaceTime visits with their loved ones, and in end-of-life situations, we arrange compassionate, in-person visits.
What does the term “new normal” mean for you professionally and personally?
Professionally, I see changes in the way we practice, particularly with the constant donning and doffing of PPE equipment. As we learn more, we adjust and make changes based on those findings. We need to ensure that we are keeping up with these changes to provide our team with the best information and practices to keep them safe. Changing and adapting is not something new for us —it’s just magnified now.
Personally, I really don’t know…. I would think social practices will need to change, but I don’t know what that will look like. One challenge I do see for myself is figuring out how to manage my own fears and anxieties to minimize the impact it has on myself and my family, as this will be the new norm.
What would people be most surprised to learn about a CrCU nurse?
ICU nurses are strong, determined, knowledgeable, compassionate, emotional, caring and staunch patient advocates. They are also incredibly supportive of our patients, families and our team members, and we are proud of the care we provide.
But what people may not know is…
EVERY experience, good or bad…. we take home.
When you are crying tears of joy or tears of sorrow…. We are, too.
Your success is our success.
Your loss is our loss.
We too have fears and anxieties.
Some of us are living in isolation from our families to protect them from what we may unintentionally bring home.
And I think the most important thing I want you to know is that we love what we do and wouldn’t be anywhere else. When you cannot be with your family, we are here, holding their hand and providing the best care we can to try and get them, and you, through this.