Valerie Emery - Being there to care

It might surprise some people that PIPSC counts registered nurses among its members. Not Valerie Emery though – she’s one of
those nurses.

Valerie never knows what her day will be like when she walks through the door to work. As a registered nurse in the ER at Whitehorse General Hospital, every day is different. “In a 12-hour shift you meet many people that might have sore throats, broken bones, or a motor vehicle accident. The variety of the care that you provide to patients is what makes the job so interesting,” Valerie says.

Valerie has worked at the hospital for almost ten years, but has been in the ER for just over a year. Growing up she always knew she wanted to be a nurse. With her mother and godmother both being nurses, she knew what she was getting into.

“I feel very fortunate that I always knew I wanted to be a nurse, so right from high school I was able to direct my career towards that.”

Valerie sees it as a tremendous privilege to be able to take care of people. “In the emergency room, people come in and it’s the worst day of their lives. So just meeting them where they’re at and being able to help them through their crisis for the day…it gives me joy to be able to do that for them and their families.”

While she loves the variety of the work, juggling competing demands is also the biggest challenge in the job, “It can be very chaotic and you have to constantly change your priorities when new patients arrive in the ER," she says. "The person you are working with is not necessarily the priority anymore so you have to continually redirect your care.”

When a patient comes through the hospital doors, one of the first people they see is an RN who triages them and decides how urgent their care needs are. With only one or two doctors in the Whitehorse ER department, it’s often nurses who provide much of the care. Valerie worries about having enough nurses to provide patients with the safe care they need and deserve. “We’re pushed to our limits of how many patients we have and we’re just bare bones caring for some of these patients, I’m afraid. If we had more staff we could really, really give safe, quality patient care. We really need more nursing staff to give complete care,” she says.

Being a nurse in the North brings the additional challenge of not having all the services and specialists often needed to provide patient care. You need to have much broader skills, wear many hats, and be ready to move the patient to a larger centre.

“If a patient comes in to the emergency room and they’re having a heart attack, you may need to start communicating with your team right away to get the patient a flight to a tertiary care centre to save that patient’s life."

But for Valerie, she’s perfectly happy nursing in a smaller hospital and community. While studying nursing in Victoria she had the opportunity to do a practicum in Whitehorse. She took it and two years later made Whitehorse her home.

“Working in a small community you can be exposed to and move to many different areas, whereas I’d never be able to do that in a bigger centre. In my time here, I’ve been able to work in the ICU, the ER, the recovery
room and day surgery. You have so much room to grow in your profession.” 

“And I fell in love with the midnight sun,” she says, laughing.