12 Hours.

A lot can happen in 12 hours. It’s crazy to think this is what my life is going to look like, i’ve never learned so much in anything prior to my first 12 hour clinical experience. The mental, physical and emotional high you ride through your shift. As a second year we don’t typically get 12 hours shifts, but because of the disruption to our clinicals we had last term, I was lucky to get three 12 hour shifts and the rest being the regular 8 hours.

It was daunting entering my first shift yesterday. Having spent the week prior in the UK for my Master’s graduation I missed the transition day of having a partner to manage one patients and get acquainted with the unit. I was nervous to be alone with a patient and not be in a familiar environment, but I SURVIVED. I am incredibly grateful to have had a pleasant patient who was understanding and the help of the fellow upper year student nurse who pulled me aside to teach me new things and help keep me on task. I am even more grateful to have had a tutor who believed in my capabilities of managing my own patient and who was there any time I needed them to double check my medications or answer my questions.

Post shift, I must say it is daunting. HOW DO NURSES DO IT? I only had one patient to take care of for the day (my first solo patient ever and first shift in my new hospital) but even just doing a head-to-toe assessment, vitals, charting, and preparing his medications took me until 9am.  Let alone the full-time nurses who have 3-4 patients each and have to have all those tasks done by 9 am so the healthcare team can do rounds. It doesn’t help when most of the patients are in isolation because of the flu/MRSA/VRE and you have to gown up each time you leave and enter their room (better remember everything the first time!). Black. Magic.

It’s crazy how much nurses have to keep on top of things, whether it’s 0800, 1200, 0500 medications, charting (can’t bring papers into isolation room), addressing emergencies that pop up or concerns, dressing wounds, health teaching, meeting with family to talk,  accompanying patients to appointments on different floors, bathing them and other personal hygiene measures, having everything ready for report, keeping on top of new orders/lab results, taking swabs, in some cases feeding patients by hand, getting them up and around, arranging a patient’s day and keeping on top of what goes on (how much they drink and output). It doesn’t seem like much, but when you actually see what goes on behind the scenes it’s baffling. By the end of my shift I was scrambling to chart everything, change dressings, and helping others with tasks like trying to get an IV into a patient who was delirious or finding a manual bed alarm for a patient who almost fell out of bed. I can see why nurses have such a high burnout rate or why moral distress is such a prevalent issue in the field.

I think one of the most important things that i’ve taken out of my Master’s degree is recognizing issues that don’t align with my values and how to slowly start to address them. More importantly i’ve come to realize the need for patient advocacy and my role as a nurse to help patients have their voices heard. I came across a patient yesterday who had a nephrostomy bag in which when I walked into their room during the start of my shift was in a bath basin floating in urine. I had never come across one of these bags, but I knew it wasn’t normal. What made me even more sad was after my assessments I was planning my day of how to get the patient up and out of bed and they mentioned wanting to go for a walk. Seeing the situation as a whole, it made me sick to my stomach to think this individual would have to lug this container of urine because the bag had been leaking, out in public, and not only feel uncomfortable with people watching them but also the fact that it was simply a hazard both physically (ie. slips) and health wise (ie. a super highway for infection). When I brought up my concerns to the overseeing student nurse she stated that in rounds they simply played it down to a behavior issue and blamed the individual for tinkering with it rather than making any effort to find a new bag somewhere else in the hospital. I’m incredibly grateful for my nursing tutor who came in to check on me and believe me when I mentioned that this was not normal and that he needed a new bag ASAP. Even to get a new bag was a mission and a half with one hospital unit complaining it would come out of their budget. Since when has it become acceptable to withhold healthcare from individuals? UTIs are prevalent in the hospital setting and seeing the state of this bag (which had been tapes with wound dressing rather than waterproof tape) was unacceptable. I can’t imagine how the situation would have looked had my tutor not been around to help me advocate for the patient in addressing the situation and scavenging the hospital for a new bag. Thinking of it was someone I loved being the in the patient’s position I would feel disgusted and angry to not have a voice in the care I receive because of my age or health condition (ie. depression, dementia).

Honestly in 12 hours, a lot can change. From patients developing delirium and becoming confused to patients dying. I experienced my first death yesterday and let me tell you it’s nothing as how the television perceives it to be. It’s cold, lonely, and in a way mechanical as in the steps are set out in hospital policy. It’s a strange feeling to look at a patient and see them lifeless especially when you had seen them in a better state the week prior, I mean as a healthcare professional we want all our patients to go home happy and healthy but the reality is some don’t and for many who do go home not at a optimal quality of life. I can’t really explain what the death process is like, but I learned a lot about how I can help make it the best it can be. Simple measures like washing the body, closing the eyes, putting on a pair of briefs and providing privacy are things I can do to help. Visiting the morgue was surreal in it’s blandness, it’s kind of unsettling to think about in that at the end of life you end up alone in a cold fridge waiting to be taken to a funeral home or be released for other measures.

It’s eye opening to how many people are death-phobic, I had a great discussion with a professor today about this phenomenon in nursing and how nursing schools do a poor job at preparing nurses to deal with death. Even within my own group a couple students found the patient’s death hard to deal with. I think nursing schools need to do a better job to improve our own awareness and understanding of the dying and death processes. How we can sort out or feelings from our professional duties and have them work together. I think death in itself is powerful, it’s inevitable, and the only I can do in the process is to respect the being that once filled that body and help transition it to the next phase. I can’t control or stop death (when medical interventions fail or are futile) but I can help by being respectful and giving the individual a respectful send off to the next realm.

I’ll be honest leasing the hospital that night, I now know what it smells likes and I also now appreciate sleep more. Being ‘on’ for 12 hours straight is a lot, but the learning experience I had yesterday was incredible. I didn’t think I would enjoy general medicine, but the variety of patients (age, health conditions, tasks) has been eye opening and a much more enlightening experiencing than my first placement at another local hospital. Honestly, i’m looking forward to my weekly clinical now and how much I will grow as a nurse through the term.

While entering the hospital before the sun rises and leaving long after it sets has it’s downsides, the work nurses do fills my soul, while the smell of hospital fills my hippocampus and nares. There’s nothing that I would change though or that a good night’s sleep, shower, and strong laundry wash cycle can’t fix.

Cheers,

Megan S

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018.

With the disruption from the college strike, my life was in a bit of a disarray.  I was also feeling a bit depressed during the holidays and I caught myself in those moods and found ways to adjust my coping strategies.

I’ve been pretty fortunate in people being able to turn to me in times of distress and i’m happy to have helped a few people work on their mental health over the past couple months. I know for many people opening up about their struggles with depression and anxiety can be tough, but I have always and will always be there to support anyone in need and I have a number of resources to direct people to. I think I will therefore make a goal for 2018 to to take part in Mental Health First Aid and be able to offer support to those around me.

I must say, the final exams I wrote so far for last term were highly discouraging. I know I am not alone when I say that, but regardless it does take a pretty big hit to your self-worth as a student when you write exams that are seemingly much harder than what you were prepared for. I must say, despite writing some pretty awful exams (and I mean 60s) I still managed to pass last term with and am surprised I even managed to pull off a B in pharmacology.

I’m moreso proud of myself for successfully passing my first clinical rotation. There aren’t any words to really describe your first clinical experience except you feel lost, confused, and like you don’t know anything especially when given your very first solo patient assignment. Let alone when patients are looking at you and watching what you’re doing and nurses are talking to you about your treatment plan. I was given some pretty challenging cases by my preceptor (generally not given to second years) but managed to pull it together and learn quite a bit. Losing out on 5 weeks of a strike in the big picture isn’t a lot, but in the moment it felt worse than it was. Having so many disruptions really takes a toll on my groups (and other classmates) ability to practice our skills and discover and address our learning gaps. However, i’m incredibly proud of the people I had in my group for creating a supportive environment for all of us to grow and success and pass our rotation.

Over the term I grew not only as a student nurse but as an advocate for my patients. I’m grateful for my experience pursuing my Master’s and believe that it’s really helped me to gain a better understanding of my patients as a whole and seemingly it was evident in post-conference talks and the work I turned in. It was even more rewarding to sit down with my tutor for my final evaluation and be recognized for the issues I brought up and the work I put into helping the rest of my group. I feel empowered and encouraged to continue on the path i’m on and to know others have recognized my passion for making a difference in not only healthcare but within my community. I’m grateful to have had such a supportive tutor to guide me through the term and firmly believe that in time I will help change the face of nursing in the role of policy advising to the top levels of government even when it was hard for me to gauge where I was at.

While my next rotation in general medicine will help me build my foundational skills, it still sucks that I lost out on such a great opportunity being in a chest unit. I know in time these rotations help us figure out where we want to do our final consolidations, but i’ll be even more excited (if things go well this term) to get into peds and maternal units.

I must say with this terrible bone-chilling cold weather I am excited to head back to England in a couple weeks to see some good friends and walk across the stage to collect my degree. Hard work has slowly paid off and i’m even moreso excited to see where 2018 will take me in my nursing journey. Therefore, I think a second goal I have for 2018 is to get more involved in community and nursing advocacy through the RNAO, ONA, and CNA as a student member.

Hopefully i’ll get over this cold and actually start the new year on a fresh foot soon. I know it’s cold and flu season, so I remind everyone to practice that HAND HYGIENE.

Cheers,

M

The Times You Live In.

It’s been a chaotic few weeks to say the least. I’m grateful for having had the chance to get away for my reading week and take some time to focus on something other than school.

I guess I would say the past couple weeks have been filled with a lot of anxiety and recurrences of my depression. Coming back into school to find out half my courses are cancelled because of a provincial wide strike was a bit much. I pay to learn and I pay to gain experience but yet half my courses including my clinical have been shut down until an agreement has been reached between the two parties. It’s a pretty crappy feeling to not be able to do something you love. It’s even worse when you come across articles pointing out the strike will be ‘protracted’ and previous strike have been 3 weeks +.

I guess I shouldn’t complain too much because I have at least my science courses to focus on and i’m grateful for what the Faculty has done in moving our classes to off campus locations across the city. I also can still attend my community placement which is also always a treat. I think the more I work with kids, the more I enjoy what I do.

Aside from that I can finally say I have recovered from strep throat. I’m usually not one to go see a doctor but even that was rough, who would think a sore throat could cause THAT much misery over three days. It got to the point I realized ibuprofen, lozenges, and my throat spray were not doing anything that I decided I needed to make a visit to the doctor. After sitting in a lecture and half way through googling the nearest walk-in clinic because I had chills and was literally in the most pain i’d ever experienced. I have a lot of respect for people that get it often, it was terrible.

But obviously bad news comes in threes….lucky me. Last week also saw my first car accident happen. Physically I was okay but emotionally I was shaken (or ‘shook’ as the youngin’s say). It was an experience and it still gives me anxiety if I think to hard about it but it’d definitely a learning experience and luckily the car can be fixed and my health is okay. I would say i’ll be more on edge driving now and I choose to walk more to do things rather than drive, but in time my confidence will grow again for driving but for now it’ll be one step at a time.

Aside from that, life is moving forward and i’m just trying to focus on making it through this term. The past couple weeks i’ve found myself in a rut where i’m not feeling motivated but then stress myself out because I don’t feel motivated. A vicious cycle. I guess it’s exciting to think I may actually have a long Christmas break this year (permitted everything goes smoothly) finishing around mid-December. Hopefully will also hear some positive news in regards to the results of my Master’s dissertation in the coming weeks.  Hopefully the new year will see me heading to London to collect my degree and see some good friends :).

Cheers,

M

First Clinical Shift.

I’ve honestly never felt so overwhelmed in my life entering the clinical portion of my program. Friday was my first day as a level 2 clinical student! I finally reached a big milestone in working with actual patients :O

It’s crazzzzzy how much nurse’s know and the things that are expected of us. I mean I always knew it wasn’t an easy jbo, but when you actually see what goes on behind the scenes, it’s eye opening.

Don’t get me wrong, I was completely excited by the opportunity to finally be in hospital, but i’m also so nervous to be seen as incompetent by the veteran nurses on the floor.

I realize it’s pretty normal to have the experience be nerve wrecking, i’m grateful my clinical group and mentor are all very open about our feelings and are all eager to learn and grow from our experiences. I’ve been slowing trying to change my mind set from one of wanting to impress and be the “star” of the group, to one of which I want to try to use these rotations to learn as much as possible.

While I’m happy to have been given my first choice of placement, I knew my instinct it would likely not be an area in which I would want to specialize and focus on in the future. I picked the Chest unit, largely because of the exposure it would given to to common diseases like COPD, asthma, and lung cancers, but also because of the fact I would get to better understand and differentiate between lungs sounds. I wasn’t particularly fond of the respiratory assessments in first year, partially because I don’t really know what i’m supposed to be listening for. While simulated mannequins are great for understanding placements of the stethoscope and palpating, they don’t really give you a realistic understanding of what the lungs actually sounds like in practice. I mean sometimes when you listen the heart sounds can be distracting or sometimes if the patient is wheezing, you might not get a clear picture of the heart beating.

Regardless of whether I love the chest unit by the time December rolls around, I will be grateful for everything i’ve learned. I’m excited to make a difference in patient care. I get being the ‘baby nurse’ i’ll get delegated tasks that aren’t so glamorous (ex. bed washes, cleaning poop/vomit/pus/saliva, inserting catheters), but I do believe every aspect of nursing care has an important place in making a patient feel cared for. Sometimes the smallest things have the biggest impact, how great does it feel to sit in a clean night gown, have your hair brushed, or even have a cleanly shaven face? While I want to help provide the medical aspects of nursing care, the other aspects are just as or even more important.

They say life is what you make of it, well, it is my opinion that the same is true for clinical and preceptorship experiences.  I know mistakes will happen The important thing to do is to learn from them, and move forward. While I feel overwhelmed now, having never had the chance to perform many of the skills I learned in person (ex. catheter insertions) I know skills will come with time and practice.

While i’ve already had days where I’ve questioned if nursing is for me. I know in time these days will become few and far between, and I will feel the rewards of nursing.  I look forward to the day when a patient’s thanks me and this appreciation will make all the hard work of pushing through nursing school worth it.

While sometimes I want to believe that i’m a super hero and can do everything on the first short, I know everything won’t always be perfect, but with a positive attitude, I can hopefully make my experience this term a great and rewarding one.

Cheers,

M

The Depression Mask.

The depression mask. What I would define as a defence mechanism because if you looked like you felt, no one would ever want to be around you.

Depression has levels that is hard for people who don’t have it to understand. It makes me angry when I come across comments calling people like Chester selfish. To me, it’s a suicide is a failure of society to protect individuals for for letting them down to feel like this was the only viable option. Depression IS a disease. Sometimes medication can help and sometimes they don’t similar to any other sickness. The difference with depression compared to other illnesses is people think it’s okay to say things like: ‘get over it’, ‘stop being stupid’, ‘this needs to stop’, or even ‘you’re just being lazy’.

Depression isn’t simply being “sad”. It’s more than that. It’s a feeling of worthlessness and that you’re a burden to everyone around you. The most toxic feeling with depression is the utter hopelessness that goes with it. Not only do you feel worthless, but you have no reason to believe that it will change. Everyone’s experience will also be different, some people can still be high functioning while others struggle to get about their daily tasks. I can say i’ve been in both situations. I wouldn’t be where I am without the hardwork I put in to be here but I’ve also had days where i’ve struggled to even get out of my bed and have the motivation to do anything because I feel empty, unmotivated, and worthless. Its a spectrum condition where the word does not define the symptoms, the individual does.

I think in my experience one of the worst things about having depression or going through a cycle is knowing you have so much to be thankful for and that there are so many people worse off. But that feeling of feeling nothing and just finding no joy in life is horrible and isolating. Instead you start to feel guilty for feeling pathetic and rather than burden people with your feelings, you lie and pretend you’re fine to get people to back off.

I think one of the most important things for people to remember is that suicide is a behaviour. Depression often drives a person to the point they want to die, but not all depressed people have self harming or suicidal tendencies. Some people who are not recognizably or clinically depressed will commit suicide or hurt themselves in a sudden moment of sadness. It’s a tragically complicated issue.

To the unknowing eye, he doesn’t look like someone suffering from depression and severe PTSD from the traumas he experiences growing up and navigating the industry. To the experienced eye though, his eyes say it all. Sometimes moments like these make it worse; you’ve had fun with the family, a few hours pass and you still feel it. Then guilt, shame, and hopelessness creep in. You think, “If I’m still depressed after having fun with the people I love, will I ever feel better?”. To be honest,  it’s not easy to seem “happy” around people. It actually hurts more when you’re lying to yourself trying not to seem upset. The human mind can only take so much torment, either from others, or itself. Those like Chester weren’t weak and should NEVER be labelled as such. It still makes me sick to think about how I let someone treat me as such in a moment of cowardice. If you’ve never been through depression you have NO idea how much mental strength it takes to hold on, especially after prolonged or traumatic events. 

It still makes me sad to realize he’s gone. There’s apart of me that still can’t believe it and I honestly can’t imagine what his family, friends, and bandmates must be going through. His legacy will not be forgotten, and while his loss is horribly tragic, I do believe it serves as a warning and example for all that mental health is not imagined. I think this video shared by his family serves to remind people that depression doesn’t look the same on every person or at every point in time. This was Chester’s depression.

At the end of the day we must support those who suffer, and awareness is the first step.

This is what depression looked like to us just 36 hrs b4 his death. He loved us SO much & we loved him. #fuckdepression #MakeChesterProudpic.twitter.com/VW44eOER4k

— Talinda Bennington (@TalindaB) September 16, 2017

RIP Chester.

M

Chapter Closed.

Ah, finally I can sit in peace and focus on writing a blog post. I can’t believe i’m already back in schools ready for round 2. Summer seems like a blur and it’s probably because of all the schooling and work I had to undertake to get caught up.

I’m proud to say i’m finished my Master’s (at least until Results day in November). All 14,998 words. I must say finishing my physiology course and having to jump straight into finishing my dissertation was a rough go. Why I thought it was a good idea to work 40-55 hours a week is beyond me, but somehow I did it. To but it into context, it took me 2 DAYS to sort through all the footnotes, citations, and bibliography and organize it all. While it’s now finished I have not yet had the courage to go back over and look at the hard copies I had printed out of fear knowing there will obviously be mistakes. While I realize work at the Master’s level does not have to be publishable, the perfectionist in me would go bonkers knowing it’s there. So to not throw myself in a downward spiral of total despair i’ve decided to withhold looking (plus i’m over writing it and thinking about it for the time being).

I think the one things i’m grateful for having done medical ethics as my Master’s is for the expansion in the way I think about things. To understand ethical decision making models and work through it. There’s no right or wrong answer in every case and going into clinical practice I know there will not always be things that line with my personal values. It’s how I can hopefully align those two differing values that will work to prevent increasing my own moral distress and prevent burn out. I also want to help my patients walk through difficult situations where things aren’t always clear and help them work through their own ethical dilemmas.

I must say while i’m excited for problem-based learning this year (largely because of it’s focus on ethics!), I am weary of pathophysiology, pharmacology, and bio-stats. It’s a bit hard to fathom how I made it knowing 30 people (our of a class of 120) were not able to move forward into second year because of failing courses by such a small margin in most cases (1-2%). I know I worked my butt off to be in the position I am, but at the end of the say all of us came into this program as highly intelligent individuals. I also knew when to ask for help when I was struggling whether seeing accommodation for my depression and anxiety, seeking out additional tutoring sessions to understand biochemistry, or even buying additional resources to bulk up my knowledge, but I also realize I was fortunate in having had previous undergraduate experience. In any program failure happens, but I think on some level it’s a wake up call to know that failure does happen and sometimes its not the smartest people that advance but those that put in the work, but its hard not to feel anxious when it is a reality.

I think of the thoughts that has been on my mind most recently have been the concepts brought up in the book ‘Lean In’. I’ve been thinking a lot about where my nursing journey will be taking me, particularly where my interests lie. I’ve found myself to always be interested in maternity, but lately due to my community placement i’ve really enjoyed working with kids. I know in my heart clinical nursing isn’t always something I will be passionate about, shift work can be incredibly draining and not conducive to raising a family, which is why I think clinical ethics will be one option I am eager to explore.

I want to make a difference. I want to lead. I want change. I want to succeed.  Those are my mantras in life. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how growing up as a female I’ve seen young males groomed to be in positions of leadership. Yet i’ve noticed females have always lagged behind. A clear example that comes to mine was having someone so close to me tell me he “could never be with someone that made more than him”. As in the male always had to be the bread winner, keep in mind this is the same person that felt emasculated having a female choose to not change her last name to his. To be honest, having read ‘Lean In’ I can say i’ve been put in a positions where I felt I could not advance myself because I was a female and had to ‘follow’ these societal norms that seem to exist.

Its incredibly distressing to see the number of female students pursuing post-secondary education but yet is not reflective of the board room. How as a female I am penalized for choosing to have children, even though in most cases its a decision made by both the male and the female and because of this I lose out on the same opportunities that would be extended to my male colleagues. To be fair, it’s also unfair that males are also looked down upon to take advantage of paternal leave to spend time with their children and raise them in an equal manner.

I think another thing that irks me is when people think that females are bossy for being assertive but when males act in the same manner they are seen as “leaders”. I’ve ALWAYS been ambitious and motivated to improve my self and make a difference at some level.  Yet, i’ve noticed sometimes people can find me intimidating because of a number of factors whether it was my upbringing, my education level, or even my goals for the future. On some level, I used to let that control me and it destroyed my self-esteem, making me question my values, goals, and self-worth. It’s taken time but slowly i’ve found myself returning back to normal and feeling excited about where the future will take me. I realize now RN positions in Ontario are limited, particularly in places I want to hopefully live, but I also know Canadian nurses are so highly regarded that the world is really my oyster and with so much to explore I sometimes find myself not knowing where to start.

I’m grateful to have had many great mentors along the way who have helped guide me down this path and shaped my goals for the future. It wasn’t until recently that i’ve reach back out to some of my most notable mentors and thanked them for the opportunities they provided me and the guidance and support they showed me in pursing my Master’s and for peaking my interests in nursing. I’m incredibly lucky to have had an enriching undergraduate experience in being well supported by a caring academic advisor (who i’m still in touch with), my fourth year practicum supervisor, my professional ethics professor, my profs in the UK, and the director of the health studies program who have all played important roles in who I am now. I think one of the most important things as not only a female, but also a person, is to find someone you look up to and connect with them and don’t be afraid to reach out to people in areas your interested in. It’s important to have that support and to know that while all our paths may not be the same, having someone in your life in that position can make a huge difference on days where you may not feel capable of reaching your goals (ie. working through pathophysiology).

My path to nursing school has not been conventional and i’ve hit many bumps along the way (ie. my battles with depression and anxiety), but I hope my journey can inspire other young people to know that life is full of funny twists and turns. It’s also helpful to know someone else feels the same way sometimes and that we aren’t alone in our journeys. In some ways its therapeutic to read about the experience of others when a lot of the resources out there for mental illness are inadequate in meeting the needs of an individual seeking help.

In time I hope to be more open about my experiences throughout nursing school and clinical practice in helping to fuel passion in other individuals whether it be in medicine or any other field, particularly in girls where opportunities to lead are not always high on the list. We need more people seeking to lead and make a difference in a world where we have people like Trump in power and in this regard we need to encourage and teach females that we can’t let someone with such disgusting views limit our visions.  I want to be part of the movement that encourages and evokes positive changes. We need to empower people to think, we need to promote opportunities to those disadvantaged, and we need to spark innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship in a world where technological advances are taking opportunities away from people.

Cheers,

M

No to Trump.

You’re probably thinking, why do you even care since you’re Canadian. I care because I am an educated woman, a minority, and a global citizen.

I get it, Trump winning was not a surprise, I knew it was coming as soon as the debates began to start. Everyone keeps talking about how it was “unanticipated” that Trump would win. That because his campaign was misogynistic and sexist it would lead to his downfall. But when you followed the media and the voices of the people you could see the dissatisfaction at the bureaucratic level and the need to get rid of the “typical” lifetime politician.  We live in an age where mainstream media controls what we see in the sense that there is more negative news broadcasted than positive. It’s framed how society views things in that the media did a solid job at painting a bleak picture of why the economy was doing so poorly, why unemployment, natural disaster, and terrorism was on the rise.

There’s no justification in calling a woman “disgusting” for requesting to a break in order to allow her to pump breast milk for her young child. There’s no reason to publicly humiliate a woman by calling her a “big, fat pig” and there is absolutely no rationale to insinuate just because you have the power and fame you’re entitled to grab a woman by the p***y.  That with his new Cabinet many women may lose access to getting preventative reproductive care, whether it be access to birth control, pap smears, and abortion.

It’s completely frightening. How do I look at a young girl with big dreams to change the world and tell her that she will be reduced to just her looks and body parts rather than her intelligence. That in order to achieve power, money, and rank, you have to be submissive to the big man up top if you want to get anywhere. That a man who has the top role in one of the most powerful countries in the world and a large social media following can influence a large following particularly with views on women, the LGBTQ community, people of colour, and evidence-based science.

We need to do more to empower women across the globe and Trump’s influence can seek to impede or even worse reverse the social progress made in helping women succeed. In developing countries, women are often forced to play the role of “stay at home” mom, often locked in centuries of misogynistic power crusades impeding them from obtaining education and income. Even worse is the fact that because many of these women are not able to contribute “financially” to their household, let alone society it further cripples the development and economies of developing nations and keeps them locked in a vicious cycle of poverty.

Even more so we need to empower minorities, especially people of colour to seek greater opportunities. Often these are some of the most disadvantaged groups in our society, whether it be in access to healthy foods/activities, safe housing  and community conditions, adequate healthcare, stable employment, and importantly educational opportunities. These are the people least likely to get out of the cycle of poverty and have the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to society.

One cannot look at how Trump has discriminated against black individuals or encouraged hatred of immigrants and fear of Muslims without understanding that his policies would almost certainly be discriminatory. With blatant racism protruding through his campaign (ex. Building a wall) how do we go about creating an inclusive society when his opinions and influence create a divided mindset. It’s not just in America, it’s happening in Canada and Europe as well. It’s not an issue about “immigrants” stealing our jobs, after all both our societies thrive on the need for immigrants to help be contributing members to the economy. We can’t blame these individuals who often come from more “stable/prosperous” positions in their respective countries and blame them for when things go wrong. To immigrate to a country such as the USA or Canada is not easy, you have to be able to “offer” something that cannot be done by regular citizens or have the financial resources to support yourself and your family as well as other factors such as level of education and linguistic abilities.

As a society, maintaining the economy is a group effort, we all have a part to play and it is our civic responsibility to seek change and accountability, hence the right to vote. Our voices hold enormous power as a group  but yet people seem to show little enthusiasm in becoming engaged with matters that pertain to them. It was not the “immigrants” that caused the recession in 2008, it was the failure of government to create protocol and monitor the major banks who often when after the most vulnerable in society in offering them the resources to “procure their dream homes” (aka The American Dream).

I don’t think Obama and Biden got enough credit for the work they helped partake in. Thanks to their roles, millions of Americans have access to health insurance which not only saved many from bankruptcy but also saved lived. Thanks to Obama, foreign relations were at an all time high helping to stabilize the world economy. Furthermore, because of Obama Banned gifts from lobbyists were not permitted to incentivize anyone in the Executive Branch with gifts helping to hinder direct influence on policy making. Even more amazing, he led an Administration that went 8 full years without causing a major scandal. By the end of his first year, the economy created and sustained 2.1 million jobs for Americans.  Signed the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, which helped millions of Americans avoid preventable foreclosures and provided $2.2 billion to combat homelessness and stabilize the housing market. Played a lead role in getting the G-20 Summit to commit to a $1.1 trillion deal to combat the global financial crisis and helping to maintain a stable world economy.

For more on his governments successes (there’s over 400 notable accomplishments) check out this site: http://pleasecutthecrap.com/obama-accomplishments/

Thank you to Michelle Obama to making it her mission to empower young women to get the education they deserve in not only the USA but across the globe with the Let Girl’s Learn initiative. Thank you to Malia and Sasha Obama for being role models for young women across the world, a task the both of you did not ask for when your father sought to become president.

Obama succeeded by taking a rigorous, evidence-based approach to government. So thank you Obama and Biden for your service to your country and to the world. Thank you for being the epitome of dignity and class. As a Canadian I wish you both well on your future endeavours and hope your desire to create social change never ceases.

I don’t know what the next 4 years will bring, but I hope for the sake of us all we don’t go backwards in creating social change not only in the USA but also on a global scale. As a Canadian we have the ability to help influence our relationship with our American neighbours and we need to make sure we protect our interests as partners.

M

Learning to Fail.

Today I arose from a deep slumber (perks of being sick) to the frantic texts of someone I care about, let alone to seeing them cry when I FaceTimed them.

It turns out they got a C+ on their one exam, when on their others they received a B and B+ respectively. While a C+ isn’t the greatest mark, it’s not the worst mark either. Upon trying to come up with a way to console them I decided the best way to go about it was to be honest and realistic. I’m not going to coddle someone and tell them life is all peaches and roses or even that life is always going to go how you expect it to, because in truth life has many unexpected bumps and blips and you can’t control that.

Marks don’t define who you are. Some of the most successful people in this world did not go to school or even if they did they did not complete their education, take for example Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg. Steve Jobs, Elton John and even  Thomas Jefferson. These are all notable people who made significant contributions to our society who performed somewhat poorly in school but used their intelligence, passions, and tenacious ambitions to crush it in the real world and will leave a lasting legacy.

In the real world, your grades don’t matter, as a nursing student I know this. You also can’t change what has happened in the past, especially when it comes to exams, papers, assignments, or even presentations. What you can change is your mind set and how you look at failure. School can be quite hard and takes a lot of time and effort. However, that doesn’t mean that an individual isn’t ambitious and full of talent. We all choose to apply ourselves differently and to different things and in an ideal world that is how we would be measured. Not by the letters on a piece of paper from our time in school. In university, it’s all about grades. In the real world, it’s about experience, balls and drive. Because once you get past the first job, no one is ever going to ask you about your final GPA or how you did on that exam you bombed back in third year.

As a lawyer you are not going to win 100% of your cases, as a doctor you are not going to save every single one of your patients, and as a nurse you are going to miss signs and symptoms that could have potentially saved a patient from dying. But you know what? We are all human at the end of the day, mistakes happen, failure happens, and uncontrollable events arise. What we can work on is reflection, a concept i’m so glad has been emphasized early on in nursing school. We need to reflect on our experience, on our failures, and understanding what we did wrong or why something did not go to plan. It makes me angry to think that society has put such a negative stigma on things like bad grades or even failure in general. We shouldn’t be afraid to fail because success is really the ability to pick yourself back up from setbacks and how to we learn to improve things.

We can cry about menial things like not doing as well as you had hoped on an exam or a paper, but it doesn’t change anything. One exam is not going to decide your whole fate. As I pointed out earlier, marks DO NOT define you or what you know. They are often used as a gauge to see where you lie in comparison to your peers, but it doesn’t factor in some people can be better test takers or can simply read a textbook and not understand concepts deeply.We know now that there are is a variety of intelligences and grades only measure a select few, and do so poorly. A exam or paper does not measure a person’s emotional intelligence, nor does it measure their leadership ability, it does not necessarily measure their ability to think outside of the box and solve problems. It does nothing to evaluate a person’s ability to predict the needs of society, patients, or consumers. It does nothing to illuminate the ability of an individual to work with others and find middle ground in standoffs or conflicts. All of these things are vitally important to an individual’s success in the real world and in life in general and ironically almost none of them are measured by grades.

I’ve experienced failure many times, my first paper in my Master’s was 100% of my mark, I received a 48%. Was I crushed? Hell yeah, I was devastated, but the more I cried over it the stupider I realized it made me look. What I needed to do was understand why I got the mark I received, understand where I went wrong, and learn for future reference what I needed to improve upon. Turns out, I didn’t actually fail in the end upon talking with my supervisors about it and reviewing my paper to understand where and what I did wrong, but it gave me the grounding and fuel I needed to be successful on future papers in which I got a number of Merits and Distinctions. But what I took out of this situation was that a) in the moment I couldn’t change anything I could only change things going forward b) my mark did not define who I was as a person or speak against my intelligence (I was already in one of the top schools in the world) and c) failure is a part of life and in order to be successful you can’t take it personally and d) if you’re afraid to fail you are never going to grow as a person. I can honestly say i’ve learned more from my failures than I have from my successes and i’m so grateful i’ve had the opportunity to fall on my face because that allowed me to pick myself back up, learn, and move forward and into an even better spot.

What we can change and have control over is how we push forward and use our failure to better ourselves and learn! Life is all about learning and improving, there’s no point in sitting and crying over spilt milk. Use your failures and stumbles to become better, faster, and stronger and use it as fuel to reach what it is you want. What matters most is the ability to pursue your goals and dreams and having a sense of purpose. Learn from your mistakes as the cliche goes.

M

To All My Fellow Healthcare Professionals.

Yesterday I moaned and complained about having to go to my Community Service Learning class (albeit it’s once a month) because I felt it was completely redundant and useless. No other nursing school starts placement in the community until second year, so why did we have to sit through this? Shouldn’t this just be inherent knowledge? I mean it’s pretty obvious we’re all caring, intuitive, and kind individuals going into a profession that is often taken for granted.

The truth is, no one in nursing school, healthcare aide programs, or even medical school teaches you the skills of compassion or empathy. How can they? I spent the whole class wondering why we were talking about this or the need to embrace diversity in the healthcare setting, seem’s like common sense, no?  The answer to that is a big solid no, and I spent a long drive reflecting on some of the things i’ve come across whether on social media, in class, working with older adults, and even in a book i’m reading called ‘A Nurse’s Story’ by Tilda Shalof (I suggest this book to all!!! I have never laughed, cried, felt so overwhelmed by the job, and appreciated nurse’s as much as a should have prior to reading this).

There’s no memorization from a textbook on what to say to a patient who is dying, a script to cover how to hold the hand of a patient going through a violating and painful procedure on their own, or even a manual on how to console a family who just lost their loved one. There’s no instruction book on what to say to a patient who can’t bathe them self or when you’re cleaning them up after they defecated or threw up all over the place because they can’t control their bowel movements. How do you deal with a patient who is going through  dementia and becomes aggressive with you or starts shouting or trying to place an IV into the restless, frightened and tired child who was kept up all night from being ill? Putting in the IV is textbook, anyone could do it with skill and practice but there’s no textbook on how to interact or console the young child. I don’t find learning the skills to be hard, I mean all we have to do is practice. Anatomy all I need to do is memorize and review. I find the hardest part of nursing to be learning to interact and converse with a patient. How during my own OSCE sitting with a standardized patient going through the early stages of dementia, all I could think about was “what the heck do I talk to you about, I don’t know anything about you and how to comfort you????”, rather than how do I conduct a Mental Status Exam or collect the patient’s blood pressure, O2 saturation, and TPR (temperature, pulse, and respirations).

On another aspect, I came across a picture on Facebook a few days ago of a scantily clad young woman passed out at a party that had defecated herself, while her fellow partygoers mocked her and uploaded pictures to social media. It was incredibly in-dignifying, sad, and messy seeing the young woman in such a vulnerable state. What was even more sickening were the comments of people judging her and making fun of her, it made me angry to see people be so inconsiderate, soulless and cruel. We’re humans, we all make mistakes and this woman while likely made a poor judgement call should never have had her mistake uploaded for the world to see. One thing that did strike me were the comments of fellow healthcare aide’s and professionals because like them my first reaction would have been to find materials to help clean her up, whether it be finding something to dispose of her “waste”, some wipes to helps clean her up, and a fresh set of clothes, as well as checking in on her vitals to make sure she was okay. Regardless of how “disgusting” it is to see human waste coming out of her body, she’s a young woman who deserves the right to her dignity and protection of her privacy. But again, it wasn’t until today that I really appreciated having a lecture on diversity and empathy because I realize those are things that cannot be taught whether it be in a classroom or textbook.

To be honest, it’s scary working in such close quarters with a patients and learning to interact with them, but it’s also incredibly rewarding at the same time when you finally find that grounding. I’m starting to feel more confident in my abilities and willingness to learn to skills and continue to become an empathetic, kind, and compassionate healthcare professional but I also know it’s going to be a work in progress. It’s not easy though to not judge someone or feel like you don’t owe someone something, after all we are all human at the end of the day. As our society becomes more diverse, it’s going to be interesting learning to interact with patients of all ages, sizes, occupations, creeds, and ethnicities. Regardless of whether I agree or not with someone who does not share the same values as me (ex. “White Supremacy”), they are still entitled to a duty of care and respect even if it means putting aside my own thoughts and feelings.

Looking back at my own “practical experiences”, my first shift working at a Senior Care agency with an older gentleman going through the terrible and irreversible condition of dementia was my first eye opening experience. I was told the individual would be pleasant although a bit stubborn, little did I understand how in an instant dementia could change a person’s demeanour in the blink of an eye. I walked in, introduced myself, and sat down to eat lunch with the man, and the first thing the man did was shout at me telling me how much he hated it being in assisted care and wanted to go back to bed. Trying to convince the man to stay in a calm manner, he began to use his wheelchair to return to his room where much to my dismay went to sleep calling me “mean” because I was trying to encourage him to take a few bits of his pudding to get some food into his body. To some this seems like it’s not a big deal, but to any healthcare provider, it’s hard to stay compassionate or kind in situations like this but we do it because we care regardless of whether or not the individual takes a liking to us.

It’s funny because I remember my first day at Western back in 2011 and being asked who wanted to be a doctor that over 300 out of the 340 kids raised their hands and out of this 200 wanted to work with kids. I realize to obtain my goal i’m going to have to work incredibly hard to compete with some of the best and brightest and I realize even when I get there my work will be incredibly hard, depressing, but also rewarding. Like I said in the beginning of my nursing school journey, I would be interested to see where four years will take me in terms of where my interests lie, and it’s already been one term and i’ve started to find my niche. I thought I would never make it to this point going through the personal struggles and self-doubt I encountered late last year, but 2017 has brought a new found confidence and stride in me and I am ready to face the challenges that sit in front of me. I’m doing all of this for me in the hopes that someday I can make a difference in the life’s of people going through what is often a vulnerable, frightening, and tumultuous period in their life.

I’m not sure i’m cut out to work with an older population. I really struggle to find the ability to connect with patients and find common ground. Along with being a labour and delivery nurse, I always thought for some reason geriatrics would be an area that would interest me, after all that is where most of the patient demographic will sit when I finally enter the world as an RN. But after spending weeks working with young kids whether it be in a community hockey program, helping out with a hockey tournament, or even interacting with the children of fellow friends, I have found a new interest in paediatrics and it makes me so excited at the possibility of getting placements in this area in future years. After years of convincing myself I didn’t like kids, I have a new found interest, curiosity, and passion with working with them. I remember growing up being fascinated at working at SickKids Hospital and entering those doors everyday as a doctor saving lives and eventually telling myself I wasn’t good enough to work in healthcare. But now, I found a renewed passion in it and I must say I can’t wait to see what the future holds, but I hope to work my way to getting into a NICU or PICU and helping the sickest of the sick hopefully  be able to go home and grow up to be amazing individuals with all the potential in the world.

But in all honesty i’m incredibly proud to be part of a cohort of people looking to take care of others and for the most part striving to make a difference even though many people often take us for granted. Without these individuals putting aside their judgements and personal problems we would never have a healthcare system like the one we have now and for that I am incredibly proud of the people who put in many hours to take care of us and our loved ones as well as the hours of study and practice to become competent professionals.

M

The First Steps.

To be honest, it’s crazy to think about how far my mental health journey has taken me over the past 4 years that i’ve been able to share my experiences. It hasn’t been an easy 4 years and I realize this is going to be a life-long journey in how I learn to manage, adapt, and cope with my depression and anxiety.

It’s not easy being a student on top of everything. The amount of stress that is placed on me at times is incredible when it comes time to balance work, nursing school, finishing my master’s, community service, and raising my young dog.  Sometimes I feel inadequate with how much I have to do, how little energy I sometimes find myself having, and how unmotivated I can be during my lowest periods. Considering everything I went through at the end of last year, I am incredibly grateful for the supports I have received whether it be from my professors, academic advisors, my friends, and most of all my family. It hasn’t been easy and I realize at times it can be incredibly hard on me emotionally to open up, which is why I often turn to writing to express my thoughts and feelings. I choose to be open because I realize everything I go through is not necessarily unique to me, while my own perception of my experience is unique, there are likely hundreds of other people out there experiencing similar situations with different perceptions.

I had the ability to talk to a notable friend today about their own struggles with mental illness and body image issues and felt empathetic towards her struggles. While I have not had much experience with eating disorders, I have had experience with both depression and anxiety. There were a number of points last semester where I would find myself awake in the middle of the night crying hysterically, hyperventilating feeling like I couldn’t breathe, and having my chest hurt like my heart was about to explode. Those sessions would then lead me to missing important classes because I could not control my anxiety and would have little sleep or energy to be able to function at times. It was absolutely terrifying at times feeling like you were experiencing a heart attack like sensation.  While I have recently been prescribed anti-anxiety medication, I know medication is not the sole answer. For me I find having someone close to talk to eases my anxiety as well as recently learning to meditate. However, I have had a number of people share their own “treatments” and notably exercise has helped a large number of people reduce their anxious thoughts and feelings.

Despite whether people agree with what I do or not, I am honoured to be someone that a number of people have turned to over the years, whether it’s to have someone available to talk to or to ask for help in finding resources to support their own recovery and journey into seeking help. I do hope on some level that my own personal experiences can help other people either a) learn to cope or find resources b) raise awareness for people suffering with mental illness or even c) open the discussion toward removing the stigma surrounding these very much real conditions.

Taking the first step is a huge milestone for many people. I remember being terrified at the idea of having to open up to my parents about my struggles, the amount of shame I felt in feeling like a failure asking for help and being unable to cope. But opening up to my parents was probably the bravest thing i’ve had to do. In the end it paid off because I was fortunate to be able to get the help I needed from healthcare professionals but it also allowed me to be open about my own journey and help a few people start their own.  I am also incredibly proud of the amount of progress many of those have made and I hope on some level I was able to help them find the strength to reach their full potential. I think one of the many reasons I wanted to become a nurse strives from my want to see people be healthy and happy regardless of how well I know them. To some it could be incredibly weird for me to reach out the them but for me I actually want to make a difference and if I can help someone even in the tiniest way possible, then that’s what I want to do. No one should ever have to feel ashamed or alone dealing with whatever their going through and I vow to always lend out any support I can give to those that may need it despite how well I know them and I will continue to carry forth this mentality as I get further into my nursing career.

Lastly, I’ve  been quite fortunate to find my own niche in the mental health community in raising awareness and helping to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness. Through my blog, Twitter, and Facebook, I have had the opportunity to reach thousands of people in sharing my own experiences. It’s incredible meeting and being connected to such resilient and humble people, many of who you would never have guessed on the outside have also struggled or are battling things such as depression, bi-polar, anxiety, or even schizophrenia.

I know I have many goals for myself going forward but one of my Twitter followers reminded me of a important initiative that I think many more people should consider taking apart of. As a nursing student I am required to update my CPR-C every year and First Aid every three years, however much of the training undertaken in the standard first aid doesn’t touch upon mental health. Approximately one in three Canadians will experience some sort of mental health problem in their lifetime and research has shown the earlier the problem is acknowledged the better the outcome. Therefore, the mental health first aid course provides some of the necessary first tools to recognize, address, and support those who may be struggling. For those interested in taking the course in Canada here is the link for more info:

http://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.ca/EN/course/Pages/default.aspx.

Definitely something to consider with the likelihood many of us will know someone struggling with mental illness or problems. I have had many people tell me great things about the course and I am incredibly excited to hopefully take part in the near future and be able to incorporate it into my nursing practice as time goes on.