Recently Retired Registered Nurse, Royal Jubilee Hospital; singer, teacher, mother, grandmother, human
I’ve worked as a nurse at Royal Jubilee Hospital for 41 years, and I’ve worked in the recovery room since April 1983. It’s been an amazing career. It was the perfect niche because I could teach patients, talk to patients, and use my critical thinking skills. In the PACU, they call me Google because they think I know everything—which isn’t true. It’s just that I’ve been around for a long time.
Some patients, who are under sedation or asleep, never know who we are. Others are awake and you can have great conversations with them. You can give them some insight and understanding—which I think is really important, especially now that we have masks on our faces. I’m still real old-school. I think it’s important for us to have that human contact. I’m a firm believer in actual human touch.
For a while there, we all gloved, masked, and gowned. We had shields on our faces. I think we probably looked like space people to someone coming out of anesthetic. I had my name on my face shield, and tried to decorate it for the occasion of the year. If it was Valentine’s Day, I had hearts on it.
We sing in recovery. We’ll all just break out into a little song and dance. At Christmas time we take requests. And we decorate the recovery room too. I’m the chief decorator. If you walk into our recovery room now, there are butterflies hanging from every bay. You have to have these team building things to keep the morale up.
As a nurse, you take on a mother bear persona. Part of nursing is advocating for a person who doesn’t have a voice. I really want to help them heal in the best way. For some, you just don’t know the trauma they have been through. Everybody’s story is so different, and surgery is very vulnerable. You’re giving somebody else control. A patient might wake up crying, and you have no idea why until you learn that they were so afraid they were not going to wake up.
I have lots of little sayings that I use just to try to convey to someone that I’m here, and I’m trying to understand, and you’re safe.
“In the PACU, they call me Google because they think I know everything—which isn’t true. It’s just that I’ve been around for a long time.”
“Shortly after, my mom died of ovarian cancer. I was 27. She was over in the old hospice here. I remember her coming in for her third surgery, and that broke me. When you have a relative who’s ill, you can’t separate the emotion.”
I was born and brought up in Victoria. I was 24 when I went to nursing school. I was a senior student because I’d already gone off to university to study anatomy and physiology. Most people in the program were 17 or 18, right out of high school. I was the oldest in the class, but I think that actually stood me in good stead because you bring life skills with you. When you’re 17, you don’t have as much life experience. After the first six months of the nursing program, we went from a class of 44 to 22. These young kids straight out of high school thought they knew what nursing was, and then found out it was very, very different. For some, it was too much to handle emotionally.
It was a three-year program here at the Jubilee. We all had to live in residence, over in the old Begbie Hall. Now it’s the Administrative Block. For the first two years, everyone had a roommate. In the third year, you got to have your own room.
I graduated in December 1981. It was a Friday. I started work the following Monday as a day/night float nurse. We were considered to be graduate nurses, so we weren’t registered nurses yet. We still couldn’t do certain treatments and give certain medications without supervision. We wrote our exams that following June, and then we had to wait six weeks to get our marks back.
Everybody fretted about the envelopes. A thick envelope meant you passed—because it had all of the paperwork you needed to sign inside. A thin envelope was bad news. Thankfully, I got a thick envelope.
Shortly after, my mom died of ovarian cancer. I was 27. She was over in the old hospice here. I remember her coming in for her third surgery, and that broke me. When you have a relative who’s ill, you can’t separate the emotion. As a nurse, you have an extra understanding of how serious something can be. I was a brand new nurse, and I was pregnant. She never met any of my kids, which was heartbreaking.
I have three adult children. As children of a nurse they all learned that, unless their arm was twisted or bent at a very strange angle, they were fine.
I also have a granddaughter in Duncan, and she’s so much fun to spend time with. There aren’t demands. She’s just so happy you’re there.
I live in a townhome complex, so I have a small garden. But, back in the day, I used to have about 8,000 square feet of garden. I would get out there and just dig and prune. And I sing with the UVic Chorus and Orchestra. I did have classical singing training, and that’s a really big outlet because you can just belt it out. It gives you that endorphin release. I love Jeopardy, and in the evening I do like watching medical programs. I love seeing if they got the medicine right.
I also have a summer cottage that I share with my siblings. That’s our sanctuary. That’s where I go to unwind. You know, just to sit on the dock, read a book, and do those kinds of things that relax you.
When I retire this year, I’m going to give up my license and do something completely different. I’m going to give part of my time to my granddaughter and do some of her childcare, because I think that’s really important. My mother-in-law looked after my three kids, and they all had an incredibly strong bond with her. I also take my son’s dog, Henry, for walks while he’s at work. My ideal job would be reading children’s stories at the library for an hour each week. I love teaching, and still being able to learn myself.
We can’t be stuck in our ways. There’s always a different way to do something. We’re just as flawed as anyone else, and maybe somebody else’s flaw is going to help me. Everyday, I learn something new—there’s always something I can apply to better who I am.
“When I retire this year, I’m going to give up my license and do something completely different. I’m going to give part of my time to my granddaughter and do some of her childcare, because I think that’s really important.”
They are humans first, who put other humans first.
More than 8,400 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.