Editorial: Nursing with heart

Jo-Anne Macdonald-Watson, President, and Linda Stanger, Executive Director
Jo-Anne Macdonald-Watson, President, and Linda Stanger, Executive Director

by Jo-Anne Macdonald-Watson, President and Linda Stanger, Executive Director.

We are all aging – in fact over 10% of Albertans are over the age of 65. As professionals, we each have a part in creating the type of environment that we would want to grow old in. Today, health professionals work with seniors in all aspects of care – emergency, acute care, clinics, home care, supportive living and long-term care. The many and varied roles Licensed Practical Nurses hold place you in unique positions to create significant culture change in healthcare – and this change includes the informed and committed decision to lead seniors care with an authentic heart.

On October 23, 2014, the CLPNA Council hosted our second annual Think Tank with over 200 invited healthcare leaders. This year’s theme was Planning for the Future of Seniors and Dementia Care.

RELATED – CLPNA Think Tank challenges attendees (via CARE magazine)

Local and international leaders shared their wisdom, some from as far away as Denmark, the UK, and the Netherlands. One key message was repeated: there is an important role for all nurses to lead a change in the way we care for seniors. Our speakers challenged us to examine a person-centered approach that draws upon the spirit inside each provider to lead with their whole heart. They spoke of systems designed with a focus on compassion, dignity and respect, showcasing care environments where staff is encouraged to create meaningful connections with residents. The result – a more positive experience of care for the resident and for the nurse.

RELATED – Think Tank summary report and presentations released

“Nurses can be attached professionals and not hide behind the mask of professionalism,” said David Sheard. In his moving Dementia Care Matters presentation, he showed beautiful images of nursing staff moving away from purely task orientation to truly connect with the people they care for. He shared it takes only 30 seconds for nurses to create a positive interaction – to make someone smile, to make them feel they’ve been heard, and to create a moment so they feel they truly matter.

We were joined by local champions from Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services, the University of Alberta and the Alzheimer’s Society, all of whom are reimagining seniors care from different perspectives: policy, operations, research and family support.

The Think Tank speakers emphasized the concept that nurses need to shift from completing tasks for people to working with people. All attending were challenged to consider a ‘restorative care’ approach where seniors are supported to be the best they can be, live a happy and full life with maximum independence. In Denmark, many live at home well into their 90s with individualized supports including increasing utilization of volunteers providing social supports.

The philosophies shared at our Think Tank were profoundly experienced by delegates, and although focused on seniors care, they are certainly applicable to any healthcare setting. This issue of CARE features LPN Kristina McGuire’s journey in pediatric healthcare with her son Sam. Her advice for those caring for children is similar: listen more closely, elevate humanity and compassion in care, and support people to live life fully and in the moment.

We know that every single day, as individual nurses, you make a difference in people’s lives. As LPNs, you showcase professionalism in all you do. Ensuring “engaged professionalism” by leading with your heart, demonstrating respect and preserving the dignity of all elevates you from professional to exceptional! It is this demonstrated leadership impacting change that results in the creation of a preferred system for all.

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