Nursing Matters

Nurses’ Voices Book

March 14, 2023

The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) published a book which recounts the experiences of more than 25 nurses from across Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. The book, Nurses’ Voices: Stories of courage and determination in the face of COVID-19, provides an inside look at how some of the most challenging moments of the pandemic impacted those on the front lines.

The book is dedicated to all the nurses and health care teams whose courage and determination during the COVID-19 pandemic inspired the world. During Canada’s darkest hour in recent history, nurses rose to the occasion and braved the storm on the frontlines of the pandemic.

RNU members Morley Colbourne and Suzette Spurrell are featured in the book.

Morley works in the Intensive Care Unit in Grand Falls-Windsor and Suzette is a Communicable Disease Control Coordinator with Eastern Health.

Morley Colbourne

You use the basement door … you feel like burning your clothes, or at least washing them right away

“Morley Colbourne is celebrating his 20-year milestone as a registered nurse, and the COVID-19 pandemic is the first time in his career that ‘armchair experts’ espousing anti-science rhetoric are delegitimizing the work of nurses to such an extreme.

Working in an intensive care unit in Newfoundland, one of his favourite breaks from work is talking about sports with co-workers.

Like many sports fans, Colbourne realized just how serious the situation was becoming as national leagues and teams announced hiatuses due to the threat of COVID-19. Colbourne remembers “one shutdown after another,” noting his work was initially “turned upside down” after his workplace was selected as the COVID-19 hospital for the central region. That meant moving the ICU to the recovery room, cancelling any sort of non-urgent procedures, and putting the entire building under lockdown.”

Morley’s wife is also a registered nurse assigned to the ICU and they have two kids under 10. He says they didn’t have much time to escape from the front lines. With the country locked down, schools closed, and the reduced availability of childcare, all these factors made it extremely difficult to continue working.

Read Morley’s story on page 46.

Suzette Spurrell

I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same.

Suzette Spurrell thought she and her husband had won the lottery. While Newfoundlanders were clearing themselves out of a historic snowfall – which came to be known as Snowmageddon 2020 – the couple was vacationing in Aruba.

But while they were clear of the 90 centimetres of snow back home, a CNN segment about a novel coronavirus caught Spurrell’s attention. After all, she’s a communicable disease control nurse coordinator for a health authority in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Just one week after returning, it was still January, and Spurrell’s director suggested the team should “dust off their pandemic plans,” warning about the ongoing health emergency in China. She began reviewing policies to prevent and control communicable diseases through resources like contact tracing, case management and, after vaccine development, immunization. Little did Spurrell know these practices would soon become part of her daily work routine.

Not only was Suzette responsible for making COVID calls, but she also trained around 100 nurses in contract tracing and case control. From March 2020 to Christmas Day 2021, Suzette’s team contacted every single positive patient and compiled their close contacts.

Spurrell says public health is the best job in the world of nursing, explaining that the role’s objectives are to keep the public healthy and prevent disease. In the future, Spurrell hopes to see funding for public health prioritized, noting “we’re always the last to get those resources, and the reason is because we do such a good job with what we have.” If the provincial government has learned anything from the pandemic, it should be that public health workers should be given the proper resources to do their work.

Read Suzette story on page 114.

Click here to download the book.