Every year on the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birthday (May 12), we come together to celebrate nurses around the world for the International Nurses Day. International Nurses Day also falls within National Nursing Week. The theme this year is Nurses: A Voice to Lead — Nursing the World to Health, and was developed by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) to showcase how nurses are central to addressing a wide range of health challenges. This year, the celebration of the nursing profession is particularly important as the World Health Organization (WHO) has also designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife.
As patients, we understand the role that nurses play related to our care and wellbeing, but we don’t typically hear from nurses themselves about how their work has influenced and shaped their own lives. At PSHSA, we’re fortunate enough to work alongside 6 knowledgeable, passionate and dedicated nurses. We sat down with a couple of them – Liz Sisolak and Olena Chapovalov – to get more personal about nursing! These interviews give us a closer look into what it takes to be a nurse, and the special, unique impacts of the nursing profession.
Why did you choose a career in nursing?
LS: It was my love of sciences that really took me into Nursing.
OC: I chose nursing because I wanted to make a difference in the world.
Tell us about your nursing journey so far.
LS: After I graduated, I started out in surgical nursing in London, Ontario and then specialized in peripheral vascular surgery. Later, I decided to specialize in Cardiac Care and worked in different critical care areas, including the Heart Institute in Ottawa. While in Ottawa, I went back to school and specialized in Occupational Health Nursing. I held OHN roles within various settings and then expanded into safety and wellness working as a Health, Safety and Wellness Specialist for the airports across Ontario. From there, I switched sectors and started to work as a Health, Safety and Wellness Specialist for the City of Hamilton. Now I consult with public sector organizations on occupational health and safety across Ontario at PSHSA.
OC: I started out as an Occupational Health Nurse in long-term care. From there I held additional positions in mental health and as a Nurse Case Manager. I am now a Health and Safety Consultant at PSHSA, supporting healthcare clients across the province.
What do you find most rewarding about nursing?
LS: In Frontline Nursing, I loved the privilege of seeing people come into the world (in obstetrics where I also worked for a period of time), and helping people recover from serious illness and injury. It was especially gratifying when patients made a special effort to come back when 100% well and thank all those who cared for them. In Occupational Health Nursing, I love the challenge of applying nursing to business and areas outside of the healthcare sector, and the vast opportunities the specialty has offered me.
OC: As a Health and Safety Consultant at the provincial level, I am grateful for the ability to play a role in making workplaces safer.
What is the hardest part about being a nurse?
LS: Certainly unexpected death and severe illness can be challenging. I think the hardest part is that Acute Care Nursing is not well understood by the general public. There is a vast amount of knowledge, experience and critical thinking that goes into making a nurse competent in their chosen area of specialization. (COVID-19 has certainly increased public and governmental awareness on this though!)
OC: The most difficult part is seeing the constraints within the greater system that may be beyond my ability to address.
So far in your career, what has been your most memorable moment?
LS: There are so many memories! Working as a Health, Safety and Wellness Specialist at Toronto Pearson International Airport when 9/11 occurred was unbelievable! While consulting on a PSHSA project, I stood beside the blast furnace at the Royal Canadian Mint watching the gold bullion cubes being poured – each worth $100K! I have so many wonderful nursing colleagues, many of whom I remain close friends with today, and the many wonderful patients/patient families I got to know and work with, especially in my early years as an Acute Care Nurse.
OC: I have had multiple memorable moments – too many to list – but all of them involve people; in my career I have come across so many amazing colleagues and incredible clients.
What does it mean to you to be a nurse?
LS: It means to care about and care for others. It also means to be an advocate or voice for others when they cannot speak for themselves.
OC: For me being a nurse, means to use my knowledge and skills to advocate for workers’ needs and continue to work hard to see a safer Ontario.
Describe the nursing profession in 3 words.
LS: Humbling, Diverse, Challenging
OC: Caring, Life-Learner, Advocate
PSHSA wishes all nursing professionals a happy International Nurses Day and a wonderful National Nursing Week! This year, more than ever, we recognize the importance of your work and the vital role you play within our communities. Thank you!