There is an eerie quiet and uneasiness as Ashley Davidson enters her workplace at Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC) amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. To enter the building, the Registered Practical Nurse must stand in line (spaced six feet apart from colleagues) at a designated staff entrance to answer screening questions.
“I feel more anxious going in the doors,” said Ashley, who works in the Pediatric Unit. “I have to wear a mask every day, which makes it harder to interact with people because it’s hard to hear what I’m saying through the mask. It’s also hard for me because I have asthma.”
Ashley is grateful for the generous PPE donations from the community that have helped to ensure she has the equipment she needs. She also shared that PRHC recently started providing hospital scrubs to its frontline healthcare workers to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 to the families of healthcare workers.
“This has been one of the scariest aspects to all of this: the possibility of bringing it home to family members. Although, since community cases have been popping up, we are all basically at equal risk of spreading it right now,” said Ashley, who is grateful for her family’s – and her work family’s – support during this unprecedented time. “It doesn’t seem to matter which unit you work on in the hospital either, so it’s so important to thoroughly wash your hands frequently!”
Although it is nerve-wracking, the Fleming College graduate said it is important for her to work in this field. “It’s what it’s all about, it’s what everyone in healthcare is here for. We’re helping people who can’t help themselves,” she explains.
Ashley aspired to work in healthcare since she was 10 years old, when her father was diagnosed with brain cancer. She grew up watching paramedics help her father during his seizures and sickness, which motivated her to pursue this career path.
“My dad has had brain cancer for 15 years and that really influenced my career choice,” said Ashley, who was also inspired by her mom for the adrenaline rush of the medical field.
“And I always knew I would go to Fleming because Fleming is a five-minute walk from my home and, with my dad being sick, I did not want to move far,” she explains.
Ashley enrolled in the General Arts and Science – College Health Science certificate program (now called “Pre-Health Sciences Pathway to Certificates and Diplomas”) to prepare for the competitive Paramedic program, which she was ecstatic to be accepted into after completing the certificate.
“I did well in preparatory Health Science and it helped with the transition into Paramedic, which I did for a bit,” said Ashley. “But while I was in the Paramedic program, I had a bad flare-up with my asthma in the winter and my doctor recommended this may not be the best path. I wanted to work in healthcare and I realized that nursing may be the best path for me. I believe that everything happens for a reason and I do think this ‘alternative’ is actually the better option for me.”
Ashley graduated from Fleming’s Practical Nursing program in 2017, consolidated in the Emergency Department at PRHC, and was later hired to work in the Integrated Stroke and Rehabilitation Unit. She also has experience working in Canterbury Gardens Retirement Residence and Central East Correctional Centre.
In January 2020, Ashley decided to gain experience and develop her skills in the Inpatient Women & Children Unit at PRHC, where she assesses mothers and babies after delivery, draws bloodwork on the newborns, monitors for low blood sugars, does PO/IV medication administration, IV insertion, catheter insertion and removal, gives baby baths, teaches breastfeeding and bottle feeding, conducts postpartum assessments, does phototherapy for newborns with jaundice, and takes care of post-gynecologic surgery patients as well.
“There’s a lot of teaching in this unit which I think is what I love best, because I really love teaching,” she said.
In addition to teaching new parents, Ashley also teaches nursing students for clinical experience and works as a Practical Nursing Tech at Fleming College.
“I always loved having students at PRHC and helping shape the way they look at the field, seeing how they learn and what they’re getting into,” said Ashley. “When I learned of this opportunity at Fleming College, it seemed pretty cool because it’s not a typical nursing job. The students inspired me to pursue it and it’s been a really positive experience.”
Ashley said she recommends this Fleming College program because of the amazing faculty and hands-on learning. Her advice to healthcare students is to get lots of experience and explore different areas of healthcare to discover the best fit for you.
And her advice to everyone is to “wash your hands! Stay home! Flatten the curve!” Adding, “I really hope this opens people’s eyes and reminds them to slow down a little bit and really take in each moment and be grateful for each day that we are given.”