“I think I always knew I wanted to be in health care.”
Alexia Jones, RN, is the LEAP Nurse Navigator for thoracic surgery. A program funded through the generosity of Della and Stuart McLaughlin, the Lung Evaluation & Assessment Program (LEAP) employs Alexia to support lung cancer patients and their families throughout their journey, including palliative care.
Yet Alexia didn’t originally plan for this career at all.
“I was pursuing med school and doing pre-med studies at UBC,” says Alexia. “And along that journey, my mom had always wanted me to be a nurse, and I was very against it. But sometime later, I was analyzing my needs and decided, ‘I need a degree, and I need to ensure that I am working with people, and in health care, and will always have a job.’”
To her mother’s joy and Alexia’s chagrin, nursing became the obvious choice.
“I ended up absolutely loving the program, the people, and graduated,” says Alexia. “Instead of going to pursue medicine again, I stuck with nursing. And it’s not been a question of whether this was the right decision. It’s absolutely something that I think I was made for.”
The makings of a health care hero
Alexia was born in Vancouver and grew up in Fraser Valley. She is the middle child with two brothers. Possibly due to her slot in the family tree, Alexia always felt a need to “overachieve”, as she puts it.
The current mother of one works full-time as a nurse navigator, and in her spare time she is both going to school to complete a master’s degree in counselling psychology, competing in soccer tournaments, summer volleyball tournaments, and practicing as an amateur bodybuilder.
A task, she says, that is as much about her fire of competition as it is about facing her fears and setting an example for her eight-year-old son, Yahan.
“I set bodybuilding as a goal was because it’s absolutely not something that I would choose to do willingly or enjoyably,” says Alexia. “Standing on stage and having people look at me, or being in a bikini, putting on heels and makeup is uncomfortable for me. So the whole goal behind it was just like, how do I stretch myself? How do I push myself? This is a childhood nightmare if you think about it.”
“But it’s necessary,” she adds. “Because I need to grow, and I need to be more comfortable, and I need to be able to try things that are hard and new.”
Hard and new seems like Alexia’s mantra. Since she graduated from her nursing program in 2012, she has always found ways to push herself into the next challenge.
“I did my last practicum on the VGH transplant unit, so I was working with renal transplant, liver transplant patients, pancreatic transplant patients, and I loved it. I loved the specialization. I loved the unit, the team. And I had, basically within six months, been given so many opportunities to try different things and to try leadership. So it just kept rolling, and I ended up in the transplant clinic at Diamond Centre,” says Alexia.
For six years in the VGH transplant unit Alexia helped pre-and-post-transplant patients. She loved the specialization of the work, the unit, and the team, but she still felt like a piece was missing—leadership experience.
“I had a calling for it. I loved to teach and to orientate students and new hires, but I also knew that I needed more experience in leadership. And unfortunately, transplant just didn’t have that spot for me,” says Alexia. “So I left transplant to work as a care management leader in the hospital.”
During this time, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Alexia swiftly pivoted and ended up supporting two of the COVID units at VGH. It was one of the most difficult times of her life, but knowing Alexia, she was always up for a challenge.
This is when she met key people who were looking to fill the vitally important role of the new Nurse Navigator position. Alexia applied, interviewed, and got the role.
The next challenge
Since then, she has helped countless individuals navigate through some of the most challenging moments of their lives. And as she continues working and learning in her new master’s program, she envisions a future where both sides meet.
“Counselling, it just feels right in terms of how I enjoy engaging with people and speaking with them,” says Alexia. “But honestly, it actually has worked out in a really interesting way in the sense that a lot of the support that I provide patients in this role is emotional support, even unintentionally.”
Personally, Alexia continues to train and practice bodybuilding, with a new competition she is eyeing at the end of the year. Until then, she will be helping as many people as she can.
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