To my delight and honour, in celebration of women, I was asked to share my work journey with key messages I’ve learned along the way with you. So, here is my story...
My name is Jane Smithson, registered nurse. I am 46 years old, married to my best friend Kirk of 16 years, with two wonderful daughters Simone and Erika, 12 and 14 years. Despite the often challenging pre-teen years and normal ups and downs of marriage, I wouldn’t change a thing! They are the best “accomplishments” outside of work! They give my life meaning and much joy.
I graduated nursing from the University of Toronto in 1996. When I graduated, there were not many nursing jobs available. I did do some casual shifts at two nursing homes, which I found at that time was too much responsibility for a new graduate. As a result, I started to do casual shifts at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto on the Medical Surgical Unit. I remember spending my days walking around with a pager waiting to be paged to come in and do a shift, which I did for a period of time. I decided to take control of my nursing career by going overseas to get full-time nursing work. I got hired by the British Nursing Agency in 1997 to work as an agency nurse in Leeds and Oxford England. From this adventure, I learned how to adapt to different work environments (ways of doing things) and gained a deeper appreciation of culture. The British may speak the same English language as us Canadians, but there is much difference, such as humor and vocabulary. Despite being on a 2 year visa, I left after 10 months. I got homesick!
When I returned to Canada, I got full-time employment, again at Mount Sinai Hospital on their medical unit. This experience taught me the importance of patient-centered care and evidence-based practice. It demonstrated how working with multidisciplinary partners are essential for meeting all of the needs of patients, in-hospital and for discharge planning back to the community setting. I worked full-time and went to Humber College to attain my Emergency Room certificate, and at a later date my Intensive Care certificate at George Brown College. As a result, I was able to work in Mount Sinai Hospital’s emergency department and intensive care units. These settings illustrated for me how to be calm, think on your feet, and the importance of breaking things down into manageable parts.
Around this time in my work journey, I met my husband Kirk. I decided to change work direction, setting my sights on Toronto Public Health. This would allow me to work similar hours to my partner and be home at night, in anticipation of starting a family. I was successful in gaining full-time employment with Toronto Public Health in their Healthy Babies Healthy Children program. I did this for 2 years, which taught me the importance of the therapeutic relationship, listening, being present, working from client’s strengths, and building the capacity of clients in order for them to succeed, that is: Never work harder than your client as this does not motivate them, to do for themselves, unless of course they are not able to, e.g. depression, ESL.
At this point in my life, it was time to settle down and decide where to live and raise a family. Kirk and I decided to move to Halton Region. With this decision, I applied to Halton Region Public Health and eventually got hired full-time in their School Years Program, where I worked for 11 years. I learned all about youth engagement, that sometimes the journey in doing a project is more important that the outcome, e.g. getting an “A.” While I was in the School Years Program I started a Masters in Health Studies with a focus in teaching program from Athabasca University, Alberta. I wanted to re-vigorate myself and doing a Masters that was more broad than nursing made sense to me. My profession, especially in Public Health, needs to work interdisciplinary within and outside healthcare and this Masters with a focus on teaching was a great fit! When I completed it in 2015, done all online part-time over a four year period, I was working in the Healthy Living Program. This portfolio had me focusing on falls prevention, mental wellbeing, and substance abuse prevention among older adults 65+ years. It was on this team that I came to fully understand the population health approach, which aims to make change at the policy level and looks at the built environment. This work takes time and it requires a culture shift within populations, whether that is at a community, municipal, or provincial level.
This brings me to where I am today, on a one-year contract on the Reproductive Team in the Early Years Program in the Health Department at Halton Region. Key messaging for Early Years work stresses that in order for children to thrive, they need to feel safe, secure, and loved!
So, after 23 years of working as a registered nurse, would I recommend nursing as a profession? Yes, definitely! It is meaningful and varied work. It has allowed me to work intimately with others to make a positive difference in their lives at a 1:1 level and to contribute to policy change on a population health level. I have cried, laughed, and celebrated small and big wins. It doesn’t get any better than that!
I work with so many inspirational nurses and other health professionals on a daily basis naming one is impossible. I am constantly amazed by my co-workers and community partners, always learning from them!
My hopes for the future include working to make positive change at a systems level in the capacity of management in Public Health.
I thank you for taking the time to read my story and hope that you have come to understand the profession of nursing a little more. I leave you with a tip I have come to understand on a deeper level whilst on my work journey:
Don’t ever think you can’t make a difference in this world. It is my experience that small groups of individuals can very much positively affect change. If you feel passionate on an issue, I challenge you to take action. Remember great change starts with an idea!
Jane Smithson, RN, BScN, MHS
Hopes for the future?
"My hopes for the future include working to make positive change at a systems level in the capacity of management in Public Health."
Tips to share with the world?
"Don’t ever think you can’t make a difference in this world. It is my experience that small groups of individuals can very much positively affect change. If you feel passionate on an issue, I challenge you to take action. Remember great change starts with an idea!"