Essential Alumni

A weekly feature from Rhodri Samuel
Mr. Samuel keeps up with alumni all over the globe. In recent weeks, he has been reaching out in particular to our graduates working in jobs that are deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kelly (Jellema) McBride ’92 (Kaye’s) filled him in on how her job and family life have changed over the course of the last few months:
I work as a nurse educator in the endoscopy program at The Ottawa Hospital. Strangely enough, my routine is much the same as usual. I work in a 0.5FTE capacity, though a typical work week will see me put in an extra four to six hours, so you could say I have a 0.6FTE position. Despite our unit moving to emergency cases only, we have had staff leave for other opportunities or retirement, leaving us in need of new staff. As such, since the pandemic announcement I have already trained three new staff and am gearing up to train an additional three staff. Fortunately, with the lack of COVID-19 patients in hospital, we have been able to move to 30% capacity allowing more patients to get needed procedures done. The training period is typically five weeks but, with the decrease in patients, we have extended it to six. I do a total of five teaching days at the University of Ottawa Skills and Simulation Centre (uOSSC) where we have a mix of didactic, hands-on, and theatre-based simulations.
I do not feel especially vulnerable as there has been plenty of personal protective equipment (PPE) and people are respecting the need for physical distancing. As part of the education on our unit, I had 30 of our 48 nurses and two of the 25 physicians come through the uOSSC for PPE donning and doffing sessions to make sure we were staying protected. We also practiced how to manage a travel endoscopy case for a COVID-19 patient at the SIM centre (see photo above – I am the nurse on the right in the foreground). We used simulated or expired PPE to minimize wastage.
When our local COVID-19 testing site opened, I worked to screen people for testing. I also work casually at a safe injection site where I see how our vulnerable street population has become even more marginalized. People were so focused on food for themselves that many of our local food banks had very limited supplies. One of our clients (who lives outside and makes money collecting empties and returning them) told me he went to the food bank for the first time in two years and wasn’t allowed to go back for four weeks. He ate all the food in one sitting.
I am careful to keep up my own health and wellness. My husband and I go out for regular walks, and we spend time together with our three boys playing card and board games to pass the time. The department I work at has a location at all three hospitals within my organization, and when I work at the campus close to my home I run into work. Even though I see people regularly at work, it has been important for my emotional wellbeing to stay in touch with friends. I go on physically distanced walks where I meet with a neighbour, but we are never closer than six feet. Our city councillor closed a road close to our home so we can safely walk and easily maintain an appropriate distance.
The key advice I have during this time is focus on the positive, ignore the sensationalized news and rely on key players for information (your local public health department, Health Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada) – social media will drag you down fast! Wash your hands, physically distance, and most of all, reach out if you need help. Don’t be shy about discussing your Advance Care Plans with those who will be with you at the end of your life. Advanced Care Plans involve thinking about and discussing your beliefs and values regarding care at the end of your life. Through this process you can identify someone who could make decisions for you if you are no longer able to. These discussions make decision-making easier when the time comes.
One thing people in our city are doing is putting up signs thanking essential workers. A friend of my youngest son lives on my route to work and posted on their sign “Thanks Nurse Kelly McB.” It makes me smile every time I pass it.
I really think the true heroes in all of this are the staff in long term care homes. For so many years they have been under supported and COVID-19 has really shone a light on that. I hope some good will come to that sector when this is all over.
Shawnigan Lake School is an independent boarding school for Grades 8-12 on Canada's West Coast. Our modern, diverse and innovative programming helps shape the next generation of global leaders.