Jemima Fitz-Gerald is a Nurse Educator. As a registered nurse (RN) with years of experience combined with specialized training, she provides a vital support service to the larger team of nurses at UBC Hospital. Jemima is the first to learn about new techniques, technologies, treatment plans and policies at the hospital, and acts as the critical lynchpin for the nursing staff.
“My role is one of many hats. One moment I could be at my desk, writing a newsletter about the next up-and-coming piece of technology we are going to start using,” says Jemima. “The next, I could be bedside, providing care to a patient and showcasing
a technique to a nurse.”
Jemima is both a support to her team and a front line worker. And to say she took this job at one of the most difficult times in recent history is an understatement.
“I started my role in January 2020,” says Jemima. “Initially, my days were filled with working between the surgical unit and the High Acuity Unit (HAU) at UBC Hospital, where patients who require increased monitoring are cared for.”
In fact, Jemima helped design the new layout of the donor-funded HAU. This work supported the optimization of the HAU so it would offer the best, most effective course of care for patients with complex needs. Jemima also began learning how to operate new pieces of medical equipment in order to train and pass knowledge onto other nursing staff.
“There’s a science and an art to it, and no day is ever the same.”
Then, in March 2020, the COVID pandemic was declared. And like our own worlds, Jemima’s was quickly turned upside-down.
“Due to the emerging nature of the pandemic, we were getting policy changes sometimes multiple times a day that then had to be passed on to staff,” says Jemima. “I was also spending time just being there for my team. It was so tough. But I also felt guilty. Because the nurses that I work with day-to-day were working in Emergency… I knew the kind of things they were experiencing.”
Jemima’s role as a Nurse Educator was a nearly impossible task. She had to battle chaos: new treatment techniques, constant policy changes, staff feelings and stress, all while facing her own personal feelings about the pandemic.
Despite all this hardship, today she is feeling grateful.
“In terms of hospital admissions, things have settled down for now,” says Jemima. “I know everybody talks about the new normal, and that’s reflected in our policies—which have stayed stable for the past many months.”
These days, Jemima finds herself able to relax a little more and return to her more regular remit. She spends her days more akin to how it was in January—learning new pieces of technology, strategizing how to pass on that information and stepping in to help with hands-on skills when needed.
Most recently, Jemima is creating the standard operating procedure for how to manage patient surges in our Urgent Care Department, by opening an overflow unit in a different part of the hospital. This ensures that patients attending the Urgent Care Department can be cared for in a timely manner. It also enables the team to ensure patients with more serious (or life-threatening) conditions can be cared for in spaces with access to specialized equipment, by diverting patients with minor conditions to an alternate location.
Jemima and other Nurse Educators are having a lasting impact on our health care system by working alongside other front-line health care workers. VGH and UBC Hospital have some of the best-trained teams in the world, and there are often new advances in technology and techniques to learn and utilize which have been enabled by donor-funded research happening right here in BC.
“I love this role,” says Jemima. “I get to know people from all around the hospital. I get to learn exciting things, and then use my skills to teach others. There’s a science and an art to it, and no day is
ever the same.”