Eastern Health’s Service and Retirement Awards Series
A bag of berries or salt fish. A bit of moose, lamb or turr. Sometimes, a box of chocolates.
Spontaneous expressions of thanks from grateful clients and patients, with a distinctly rural flavour!
The life of a community nurse in St. Lawrence is never dull – and you’ll never go hungry if your clients have anything to say about it!
This month, Eastern Health will give a service award to AnnMarie Slaney for her 25-year mark as a nurse – most of them spent as a community nurse in her hometown of St. Lawrence on the Burin Peninsula.
AnnMarie is celebrating too – maybe because those 25 years have sped by – in the way years do when you love going to work every day.
“It really doesn’t seem like a long time,” AnnMarie says. “I enjoy every single day – I never stop learning and I never get bored!”
Her range of duties might have something to do with that. She runs Child Health clinics offering immunization, clinical assessment and educational support for children from two to 18 months.
She offers breastfeeding and parenting support in both home and clinic visits. She runs pre-school health check clinics for four-year olds to assess if they’re ready for school or have any health concerns, and supports the local Healthy Baby Clubs from 0-six years old.
She’s involved with the control of communicable disease – anything from flu to problems with contaminated water.
At times, she may assess men and women for placement in long-term care facilities and sits on the Age-Friendly Committee, a local resource for seniors.
And she helps to mentor nursing students while they do their community health on-the-job training.
“What I do runs the full continuum of health care – or as I like to say ‘from the cradle to the grave,’” AnnMarie says with a smile. “It really is all about the caring and it’s so nice to feel the appreciation in return.”
AnnMarie says in a small community, far from the larger health care centres, a community nurse works fairly independently – but forms close ties with other community leaders such as school principals and guidance counselors, social workers, town officials and members of the clergy. Her volunteer work with her church and several other community service groups strengthen those relationships even further.
And speaking of close ties, her patients and clients are her next door neighbours, family members and friends she grew up with, who feel free to ask her advice anytime, anywhere!
“You’re never quite off the job because people always know where to find you – they just call your relatives and ask,” AnnMarie says with a laugh. “But I love rural living and supporting the people of my area to achieve optimal health.
“It’s really kind of wonderful; it makes you feel warm in your heart that people are so comfortable with you.”
Their confidence is well placed. AnnMarie has both an RN and a BN, completed a Nursing Leadership Development Diploma Course at McMaster University School of Nursing in 1996, and achieved National Certification in Community Health Nursing from the Canadian Nurses Association in 2011.
A lot has changed in a quarter of a century. AnnMarie started her career in the old Cottage Hospital in St. Lawrence, before moving to the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre for a few years and eventually home again to St. Lawrence.
“In the early days, everything was hand-written; computers have made a huge difference to our documenting patient care,” AnnMarie says. Nurses also have more options today when it comes to specialty training.
“But the hands-on nursing care doesn’t change – if you are kind and respectful to others, they’ll be kind and respectful to you,” she adds. “The only difference is that patients are more likely to ask questions. And that’s a very good thing – as it means they’re more informed and engaged in their own health care!”
AnnMarie has learned a lot over the years – both in school and on the job. The babies she once cared for are now having babies of their own.
What would she tell young community health nurses starting out in their careers?
“See the importance of ‘population health’ – keep the big picture in mind while tending to individual issues and concerns.”
“Never minimize the concerns of those who come to you.”
“Never underestimate the impact of what you do on the lives of others.”
AnnMarie Slaney will accept her 25-year Service Award on April 8, 2014, at a ceremony in Marystown. ■
This story was written by Deborah Collins, a communications manager with Eastern Health, based in St. John’s.