Covenant Health
This week's reflection

This week's reflection

I believe the second half of one's life is meant to be better than the first half. The first half is finding out how you do it. And the second half is enjoying it.

Frances Lear

Nurses welcome new Fort McMurray moms, babies, with open arms.

May 04, 2016

Nurses and social workers will be caring for evacuees as they are admitted to hospitals throughout the Edmonton zone with little more than the clothes they wore in. Lynn Laskoski, Shawna McNernie, and Shelina Kassam (left to right) are just three of many who are working hard to make patients feel welcomed and at home.

Welcoming a child into the world is supposed to be one of life’s most wonderful experiences. However, in the midst of one of the worst wild fires in Alberta’s history, maternity patients transferred from the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre are meeting their children for the first time in the midst of unimaginable circumstances.

Staff at the Grey Nuns Hospital greeting these new parents are doing everything in their power to make the families feel safe and accepted while also addressing their medical needs.

 “It’s traumatizing when you’re delivering not in an institution,” said Shelina Kassam, a registered nurse at the Grey Nuns. “Thinking about that weighs you down; thinking about what they were going through. You have no answers except to say: ‘You’re safe now. You’re here with us. We’ll do all the rest.’” 

“That’s the first thing I said when my patient arrived: ‘We’re so glad you’re here.’” added Shawna McNernie, a licensed practical nurse on the same unit as Shelina. 

Beyond the trauma of being evacuated from your home, some new moms had difficult pregnancies and births as well. One of McNernie’s patients delivered twin baby boys in Fort McMurray and was evacuated not long after her caesarean section. The medical complexities of caring for twins can be hard enough, but thankfully both mom and her boys are adjusting well. 

“Thankfully her babies are fine. We get a lot of twins that are a lot of work! She was a good mom to be in this situation, she adapted quite well and got those babies here safely and healthy,” said McNernie. 

It’s also important for both for patients and those health care workers on the front line with them to not forget about self-care. The events unfolding around the wild fires are far from over, and there will be many more difficult days ahead.

“It’s been more of an emotional day than a stressful day,” said McNernie.

“I’m very concerned about how they’re feeling,” Kessam added.

When asked how she would practice self-care, McNernie answered: “Just being here with each other. Our coworkers. This is another family for a lot of us, and we’re all good team players and working together. We get support through that, through each other.”