Nursing Matters

RN Spotlight: Alison Russell

March 22, 2022

Alison Russell, RN – Branch 8 Lakeside Homes

How long have you been an RN?

I have been an RN for 20 years. I went to school in Corner Brook at the Western Regional School of Nursing at Memorial and graduated in 2001.

You recently moved from working acute care to long-term care. Why did you make this change?

There were a lot of issues on the acute care floor that I worked on. I was the most senior RN there and I felt there were a lot of duties put on me. Just being in acute care for 20 years was getting stressful; the acute care part of it, the critical patients… seeing so many traumatic events. It was getting too much and I felt like I needed a change.

What do you like about working in long-term care?

There’s lots of stuff I like about working in long-term care! It can get busy, but I do find it to be a more relaxing environment. You get to know your residents and their families, and they become part of your work family as well. Mainly being there to help the residents and their families. There’s still challenging times, but you get to help them live and die with dignity and respect. You are there to help them with their last years, making sure they’re comfortable and happy.

It’s really rewarding. When you start your shift, the residents recognize you, smiling and happy to see that you’re there. They recognize us as family too.

Can you walk me through a typical day?

All days are different. Lakeside homes has 102 residents who we are responsible for. We get report first thing in the morning and see what pertinent issues need to be seen to. Anything that requires a doctor we will either contact our NP on site or call the residents doctor if she is not available. We help with morning care, afternoon rounds, assisting residents with all their meals, doctors’ orders, drawing blood, administering meds, and palliative care.

If residents become ill or have a fall, the RN does the assessments and decides on the next steps for care. Wound care is a big part as well. We assess the wounds and monitor the improvements or decide if a wound care nurse needs to be consulted.

We do all the admissions into long term care at Lakeside and we accept the respite admissions as well. We attend interdisciplinary meetings with the families of the residents. We help guide and direct other staff members with any issues or concerns. Communication is a big role between all staff, interdisciplinary team and the residents and their families.

We keep families updated a lot. Anything at all with the residents, big or small, we call the families and keep them updated on the care.

What role do registered nurses play in long term care? What unique value do they bring to long term care?

RNs are responsible for promoting and supporting resident-family centered care. We’re committed to the safety of the residents. We identify any risks and implement any improvements. We monitor the health of the residents and make sure they’re getting the proper care for what they need.

Interacting with residents’ families is a big role that we play in long-term care; reporting any changes in their health or living situation is very important.

What advice would you give to someone considering making the move to long term care?

They should definitely consider it! I’ve got no issues with long-term care. I love it. I don’t think I would have said that when I first graduated nursing school as I always thought I would not use many of my skills. I do realize that a lot of my skills are used in long-term care. Our assessment skills are always being used. It’s a rewarding job and you get to see the positive of a lot of things. Families are usually very thankful for everything that you do.

What is one thing you would change at work if you could?

Have more staff. Staffing is a big issue.

What’s been a favourite memory for you as a registered nurse?

My favourite memory would be all the friends that I have met through work. It’s like a second family. We spend almost as much time at work as we do at home. The bond and the relationships I have between my past and present coworkers… we have a lot of memories between each other for sure.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Working with the residents and making a difference in their lives. Seeing that they’re happy and enjoying what we do.

What’s the most challenging?

When a resident becomes ill, takes a turn and has to go into palliative care. You have to be there for the family. Especially if it’s a resident that has been there for a while. We all get attached to the residents. It’s hard when we lose a resident.

COVID has also been a big challenge. We had reduced family visits and recreational activities for the residents, which they all enjoy.

What makes you proud to be an RN?

Being able to be there for those who need it. Knowing you can help others and make them feel well and happy in the environment that they’re in.