Registered Nurse at Victoria General Hospital, breakfast-lover, climber, partner, son, human
When I applied for the ICU, COVID wasn’t a thing yet. I remember the day of my interview, back in March 2020, when I got an email saying that it was cancelled because of this new disease that was going around. I’m sure a lot of other people thought there wasn’t really much to worry about, and that it would blow over. In ICU, we see a lot of unfortunate cases, and for a long time we weren’t seeing any silver linings. No huge success stories, and that can take a hit on your morale. You come into this profession wanting to do your best and wanting to help people heal and recover. And when you get waves and waves of people who aren’t as fortunate, it’s taxing on your soul.
I graduated in 2015, and worked on the same unit for five years. I had a co-worker who I had graduated from nursing school with, and who worked on the same unit. We collectively agreed that it was time for a change. ICU seemed like a good fit for us. I’ve been in ICU for just over a year now.
When I was in high school, I felt a very firm confidence that I was going to be in the medical field. I wanted to be close to the patient and have more of a bedside role. My mom, who is a care aid, said, “Well, everything you’re describing is what a nurse does.” I have a bunch of family members who are nurses and who reaffirmed that. Becoming a nurse has been great. I love sharing stories and I think the best part of nursing is that you get to hear other people’s stories too.
My parents and family are also in healthcare. My mom has been a care aid for 25 years and I’ve heard lots of stories from her—just how close she gets with her patients. If one of her residents is going through a rough patch, or if they lose a resident, she gets really emotional. I think there’s something admirable about having someone who really cares for people in those positions.
“When I was in high school, I felt a very firm confidence that I was going to be in the medical field. I wanted to be close to the patient and have more of a bedside role.”
“I love climbing. I’ve been climbing since I graduated from nursing school, and it’s my go-to outlet. It involves a lot of problem-solving, and it’s a great way to shift your focus.”
My mom recently retired—I say “retired” in quotation marks because she’s still working. She retired when COVID disallowed people from being with each other, and she found the retired life boring because all of her friends were at work. She’s more sociable than I am. The way she presents herself—being ready to do hard work, and be cooperative and amicable with her peers is huge. Going into a new job can be intimidating, but having her as an influence in my life has been great.
My family is very tight-knit. My parents moved here from the Philippines back when they were teenagers. My brother and I were the first generation born and raised in Canada, and we were born in Victoria. Our family used to hang out every Sunday. We would always go for lunch. When you get older, the availability isn’t always there, but it’s always great to be with my family and share food and laughter. Just being with them is enough to get my spirits up.
I love climbing. I’ve been climbing since I graduated from nursing school, and it’s my go-to outlet. It involves a lot of problem-solving, and it’s a great way to shift your focus. I also have a very loving partner, and she listens to me. She’s always there to deescalate if I need to be talked down. Those are the two biggest things in my life that ground me.
On a day off, I wake up and have a big breakfast. I get very excited about breakfast. I really love making a French omelet with a good artisanal bread. My girlfriend will tell you that I’m miserable in the kitchen, aside from my ability to cook eggs and mac and cheese. Then, depending on the weather, I’ll either go to the climbing gym, or out climbing and bouldering in the local areas. After I’ve sufficiently tired myself out, I’ll have dinner with my girlfriend and we’ll feed our cat. Then, if it were up to me, I’d be binge-watching Jeopardy! for the entire evening.
There’s a poem that has resonated with me from a Lebanese-Canadian poet named Najwa Zebian. I got a tattoo based on it, and I love and that it’s always at the forefront for me. It goes, “These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.” This job is taxing on the body, mind, and the soul. Sometimes you’re going to come across situations where you just can’t give more of yourself than you already are. Sometimes you just have to move past it and overcome it, rather than let it weigh you down.
Being with someone when they’re really vulnerable, I think that’s something a lot of people can take for granted. It feels nice to be the one who’s there for someone when they’re in such a critical moment. Since I moved to the ICU, I’m finding that I’m feeling more grateful for the work I do.
One of the things that I love about working in the ICU is that, usually, you have one patient, and you learn everything about that patient’s journey. You essentially become an expert on this one person. And I think having the time to learn what that person means to the people in their lives is definitely a factor in making some moments very memorable and moving.
I remember my first patient death on the ICU. The family came in and we had done all of the diagnostics and it wasn’t looking good. The doctor went over their options, and they made the decision to go with palliation. And during that hour, when we were having this family conference, I just listened to the stories this family told of their husband and father, and how much of an active member he was in his community. They wanted to honour his wishes, and knew he wouldn’t want to go any further. There was just something about being able to get this human insight into this person. When we went ahead with the day, he passed away very quickly. Afterwards, I hugged them, and the mother and her daughter left hand in hand.
“Being with someone when they’re really vulnerable, I think that’s something a lot of people can take for granted. It feels nice to be the one who’s there for someone when they’re in such a critical moment. Since I moved to the ICU, I’m finding that I’m feeling more grateful for the work I do.”
They are humans first, who put other humans first.
More than 7,900 caregivers and staff work around the clock at Royal Jubilee, Victoria General, and Gorge Road hospitals.
#HumansFirst is dedicated to sharing the stories from behind our hospitals’ frontlines. These stories remind us that those who provide care and keep the lights on in our hospitals also have lives outside of them. They have family and friends, they enjoy hobbies and interests, and they have all lived through their own personal triumphs and heartbreaks. Like all of us, they are human, and they have a story to tell.