Amanda Slanina at left

A day in the life of a Kitimat nurse

Kitimat nurse Amanda Slanina explains life as a nurse for National Nursing Week.

The details leading up to the handwashing incident are compassionately sparse.

The only details that Kitimat General Hospital nurse Amanda Slanina would (thankfully) share of her colleague to the Sentinel is that as she washed her hands, a small brown spot seemed to appear on their upper arm.

A quick scratch and sniff at the speck revealed it’s source, and yes, it was fecal.

“Now we still call her scratch and sniff,” she said, laughing.

Such is the life of a nurse, where long shifts can make you feel behind in your work — and yes that is a pun.

But Slanina, a three-year nurse in Kitimat, wears a smile to work as well as her scrubs, and works with a tight-knit group of fellow nurses.

She acknowledges the long shifts — 12 hours — and wishes there could be more nurses on at a time to handle the many patients which all demand attention, but it’s not a profession that gets her down.

“Our job is awesome, it’s just sometimes having enough people to deal with crises. When someone’s sick you need a lot of hands.”

The call to nursing came to Slanina in high school when she volunteered at Mountainview Lodge, and discovered a happy staff working there and, for her personally, the joy of helping people.

After graduation she went to medical school at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George.

Now as a professional nurse, the job description is vast.

She said days will begin with tasks such as checking vital signs, washing patients and getting them mobilized.

But other things fill in the gaps. For instance she said that a nurse acts as a patient advocate, and a liaison between a family and a doctor.

Some of the most important parts of the job are also things that most people won’t even notice.

“You don’t see how organization and time management are so important in your job, and how important everyone’s job is,” she said. “You need a whole team to make a patient healthy.”

She says that people might not notice the fact a nurse is at the end of a 12 hour shift but still cleaning up bodily fluids off bed sheets.

“No one knows you’re doing your best to deal with all your patients,” she said.

That must be why the Canadian Nurses Association honours May 6 to 12 as National Nursing Week, a special recognition for the work they do in a year.

The job does allow for continual improvement. Slanina says there are lots of opportunities to learn about other aspects to nursing.

“Northern Health is amazing for educational opportunities, they’ll train you whenever you want to learn,” she said. “We can move to public health, we can move to mental health…”

She said she has spent some time in other areas, when she becomes a bit burned out in her usual routines.

Even as a job she loves, it can take effort to appreciate the work that is done.

She thought about the sacrifices she makes last Easter, when her shifts had her working through the whole holiday.

Keeping in mind the patient’s perspective keeps her grounded.

“I was thinking about this at Easter, I was working all Easter and I didn’t get any Easter dinner and I thought ‘this sucks that I’m not getting any Easter dinner.’ But then I thought the patients are in here and they don’t get any of that either.”

Five days off after a rotation doesn’t hurt either though, she adds.

Slanina praises the people she works with, and clearly her experiences are shared by all her colleagues. It’s a tough job, but their shared task keeps them connected.

The nurses in Kitimat did get a little extra recognition this week. As this reporter left, the PA system announced that cake was being served in the cafeteria.

You’ve got to admit, that sure beats poop on the arm.