Fleming College graduate Kimberly Coe feels honoured to be a nurse

Kimberly Coe, pictured before an N95 surgical mask, face shield and gloves were required as a protective measure.

Kimberly Coe felt anxious when the COVID-19 pandemic began, but now the Registered Practical Nurse feels comfortable with her new normal.

“I feel safe and surrounded by a good group of people,” said Kimberly, who works in the Palliative Unit and Complex Continuing Care at Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC).

In Kimberly’s new work routine, she wears street clothes to work and changes into uniform at the hospital. She also wears an N95 surgical mask, face shield and gloves as a protective measure.

But adapting her work routine is worth it because Kimberly loves being a nurse.

“I love it. Is it hard? Yes. But I find caring for people to be a privilege,” she explains. “In Palliative Nursing, it’s not just about the patients, it’s about the families you touch.”

One special moment was when Kimberly received a private Facebook message from the daughter of a patient who had passed away.

Three months earlier, Kimberly had painted that patient’s nails. “In the message, she said it took her three months to find me,” Kimberly explains. “She told me, ‘my mom may not have known you were painting her nails, but I did. And that mattered to me. That made a difference to me.’”

Kimberly loves helping others and has always spent time caring for her family, friends and neighbours. She decided to pursue her dream of being a nurse at 51 years old when, after a late summer night chatting with a friend, she felt encouraged to apply to Fleming College.

Unfortunately Kimberly was not accepted into the Practical Nursing program, but she was encouraged to consider the General Arts and Science – College Health Science (GHS) program (now called Pre-Health Sciences Pathway to Certificates and Diplomas). GHS is a pathway program that prepares students for admission to college programs in health sciences, biology or chemical sciences.

 “The Practical Nursing coordinator at the time said the GHS program would be a good thing for me to do because I had been out of school for a long time,” said Kimberly. “She said it would help get the wheels going and that really appealed to me. I enrolled and it was the best thing for me!”

Kimberly balanced her studies with personal responsibilities, including being a single mom to a 16-year-old and home ownership, and is happy with her decision to return to college. She encourages anyone considering a nursing career to take the Pre-Health program because it prepares students for college and helps with the transition.

“Everything in the GHS program is all useful stuff and it’s a really great way to figure out what you want to do for your career,” said Kimberly. “I loved (coordinator) Susan Hyndman’s biology class; she is a phenomenal teacher and it was an unbelievable learning experience.”

Outside of class, Kimberly worked at the Fleming Campus Store and enjoyed taking study breaks in the Steele Centre. “I would go there to relax and listen to music, talk to friends, and close my books for a minute,” she said. “It’s important to take breaks and have fun too.”

To support her studies, Kimberly used Fleming Tutoring Services and highly recommends this academic support. “I never failed. My marks were high and I made the Dean’s List for the first time in my life!” she said. “People think you only use Tutoring when you’re failing, but you should go to Tutoring right from the start to help you succeed.”

After completing the GHS program in 2017, Kimberly enrolled in Practical Nursing and, during her last year at Fleming College, she was joined on campus by her daughter. Kimberly’s daughter is studying in Fleming’s School of Trades and Technology and Kimberly is proud of her for pursuing this profession.

While her daughter continues studying at Fleming College, Kimberly is proud that her education led to employment. After completing consolidation in the Palliative Unit at PRHC and graduating in 2019, Kimberly was hired immediately as a Registered Practical Nurse.

She highly recommends Fleming’s Pre-Health program to others and said she really enjoyed her Fleming College experience.

“People asked me when I started, ‘are you going to the Orientation?’ and I said, ‘of course I am!’ I loved that day; I had the most fun! And I wear my Fleming College buff from Orientation to the hospital!” she laughs. “I loved those days and I want to go back– I’d love to return and volunteer in the GHS program.”

Practical Nursing student Erin Bourne committed to long-term care amidst COVID-19

Practical Nursing student Erin Bourne is committed to caring for residents in long-term care.

“I’ll never leave long-term care. I love that age population,” said Erin, who works as a healthcare aid at Hope Street Terrace in Port Hope, Ont. “The history the residents come with, the strength they have, it’s incredible. People may look at the elderly as frail, but the strength and what they’ve gone through is incredible. I never leave work without learning something new.”

As a healthcare aid, Erin is responsible for resident care, getting them ready, bathing, toileting, nursing restorative care, feeding and more. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Erin said her work routine has become more challenging.

“Staff aren’t able to work at different locations right now, so we have less help. We have to wear masks during all shifts, so residents can’t see you, and it’s hard for residents with hearing impairments to hear you through the mask,” she explains. “I’ve always worn PPE when I’ve needed to, but I didn’t realize how much damage it can do to your skin when worn for long periods of time. It hurts.”

Despite the challenges, Erin is happy to continue caring for long-term care residents. She has been working at Hope Street Terrace for years, previously working in a management position in the Scheduling Department doing scheduling and payroll for nurses. Erin also worked casually as a Physiotherapist and Occupational Therapy Assistant, as she is a graduate of Fleming’s Occupational Therapist Assistant and Physiotherapist Assistant program (Class of 2005).

“I always wanted to work in healthcare and in high school I did my co-op placement at a hospital in the Rehabilitation Unit. I wasn’t ready for nursing, so I took the Physio program at Fleming instead because I wanted to help people live independently and give joy,” said Erin. “But when you work in physio in long-term care, you encounter the things that scared you about nursing anyway.”

After undergoing IVF treatments to have her daughter, Erin decided to enroll in Fleming’s Practical Nursing program to become a nurse. She explains, “After having my daughter, it really sparked an interest in nursing to help people. Although I didn’t want to work in maternity, I did want to help others as a nurse.”

Erin said she felt nervous to return to school 14 years after graduating from her first diploma program, but those fears went away as soon as she entered the classroom.

“I was really nervous going back as a mature student because I didn’t think I would relate to my classmates, but in the Practical Nursing program there is a big age range; from students fresh out of high school to second career students like myself,” said Erin. “And Fleming feels smaller than it is, and everyone is super friendly.”

Erin recently completed her fourth semester of the program and shared that she is more involved her second time studying at Fleming College. She is developing lifelong friendships with her peers, volunteers at Fleming Open House events, and has worked as a Lab Assistant on campus.

“I would recommend this program to others and I already have. Two people I spoke to are starting the program this month!” said Erin, who especially endorses the School of Health & Wellness Simulation Lab that helps develop skills through immersive simulations. The Simulation Lab provides access to a high-fidelity manikin, “Apollo,” that records video and gives students and faculty the opportunity to review their actions. For Erin, this gave her the opportunity to practice her CPR skills and feel confident if she’s ever in that situation.

Outside of her studies, Erin also keeps busy as a wife and mother, and working part-time at Hope Street Terrace.

“I love being a mom and I love being there to help other people. I thrive when I’m busy,” said Erin.

Her advice to others right now is to stay home and avoid unnecessary trips. “I also recommend having empathy and compassion. Everyone is dealing with this in different ways, so understand that some people will not deal with things like you. Have empathy and compassion for them,” she said.

Registered Practical Nurse Lori McQuaid stays optimistic during COVID-19 pandemic

Healthcare workers face many challenges at long-term care homes amidst this global pandemic, including preventing the spread of COVID-19 to residents. But Lori McQuaid, a Registered Practical Nurse at a long-term care facility, is staying optimistic.

“I try to give lots of encouragement, extra reassurance, stay positive and keep reminding residents that this is short-term,” said Lori, who explains that residents in long-term care are not allowed visitors right now. “Before long, their son, daughter or loved one will be here to visit again.”

Shopping trips, restaurant outings, bingo games, visiting bands and other activities have been cancelled as a protective measure. To help reduce the group size during meal gatherings, residents are divided in half and two meal services are offered at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“Residents are getting bored because they miss their activities and their visitors. Normally there’s lots of things to look forward to and, right now, we don’t have that so that is hard on them,” said Lori. “When I do medication checks, they’re chattier because they miss that social interaction, so I spend more time with them and chat.”

Lori said web chat calls from family members help encourage residents. She also spotted a couple standing outside the building one day talking to a resident through their window.

“If you have elderly grandparents or parents, keep in contact by phone, Skype or Facetime. Continue physical distancing because you may be a carrier and not know it; but keep in contact. Do your part and do what you’re supposed to do because this won’t go on forever,” she said, also stressing the importance of hand hygiene to prevent the spread.

Lori said her work routine has changed as well. To enter the long-term care home, Lori must answer a series of questions, take her temperature, change into her uniform inside the building (instead of wearing it to work), and must always wear a facemask.

“The purpose of it is well worth it,” said Lori, who drew lips on her facemask to help residents identify her. “We’re free of COVID-19 and we want to keep it that way.”

Lori has worked in long-term care since 2008, hired before she graduated from Fleming College’s Personal Support Worker program. She had enrolled in the PSW program to explore the healthcare field after spending 17 years working at Marina and Sports Bar (including years in management) and earning her Correctional Worker diploma from Fleming in 1995.

“When I had my children, that was my first hospital stay and I felt really inspired by the nurses. I realized this might be for me,” said Lori. “I took the PSW program to learn more about healthcare and I loved it! I loved being a PSW and I wanted to do more, so I became an RPN.”

Lori took Fleming’s bridging program to Practical Nursing and graduated in 2013, working as a Registered Practical Nurse in long-term care since then. In 2017, she added Fleming College to her resume as a Nursing Lab Technologist to help train future nurses.

As a Registered Practical Nurse in long-term care, Lori is responsible for giving medications and treatments to residents, caring for them and creating care plans, meeting with doctors to discuss residents, and more.

“In my opinion, it’s a wonderful career choice and it’s very rewarding. I thoroughly enjoy what I do,” said Lori.

“My passion is caring for the elderly and helping them. My rule of thumb is that one day that’s going to be me, and I feel they should be treated with the utmost respect– and I hope I’ll be treated the same.”

Practical Nursing grad Ashley Davidson perseveres amidst pandemic

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.”

Vanessa Raaymakers balances Fleming College studies with PSW work amidst COVID-19

Although the start of her workday has changed, Vanessa Raaymakers is continuing to work as a PSW amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It’s definitely challenged PSWs a lot more,” said Vanessa, who works at Extendicare Lakefield while studying Practical Nursing at Fleming College. “Unfortunately, there is a PSW shortage – even before the pandemic – and now we’re on overdrive to keep ourselves healthy to ensure we keep our residents healthy as well. It’s scary because we can’t physically distance in our jobs.”

To enter the building, Vanessa said she first visits a vestibule to answer a series of questions. She then enters the building and sanitizes her hands, takes her temperature, answers a series of questions in writing and adds her signature.

Vanessa has worked as a PSW for five years, spending the past three years at Extendicare Lakefield. She works day shifts and helps 12 to 13 residents get ready in the morning, which includes dressing, toileting, brushing, feeding, communicating with them and lying them down.

“This isn’t a Monday to Friday job; you talk to people all day, you’re in their personal space and you become like family. They are counting on you,” said Vanessa.

“I love my residents. You go in everyday and you’re there for them, you hear their stories about where they’ve been and about their kids. When you see them happy and you hear about their life, it brings so much happiness to this job,” she explains.

One of Vanessa’s favourite moments working in long-term care was discovering that her house was previously owned by a resident.

“Her daughter had pictures of her room and I showed her what it looks like now, and she just lit up,” said Vanessa. “They told me all that they did to the house and it made her so happy.”

While continuing her PSW career, Vanessa is studying Practical Nursing at Fleming College to gain more critical thinking and hands-on skills. She is currently in her second semester and, despite the disruption due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Vanessa said her experience at Fleming has been good overall.

“Being out of school for a long time and coming back as a mature student, it was difficult,” said Vanessa, who is 25 years old. “But there’s really good support and I was able to ask lots of questions, and there’s lots of help.”

Vanessa said she is already applying skills gained at Fleming College to her PSW role. After learning more thorough and specific terminology in the Anatomy & Physiology course, Vanessa is now able to relay more detailed information to the nurses who create care plans for residents.

The Fleming College student said she has always lived her life according to plan; she has been with her partner for eight years, bought a house at 20 years old, works hard and has a strict schedule. But one thing Vanessa is looking forward to when she graduates is being open to adventure.

“Now that I’m in school, it’s giving me a different perspective and, as I’m getting older, maybe my plan doesn’t need to be so strict,” she said.

Vanessa is currently brainstorming possibilities for the future, including moving north. “My family is from Alderville First Nation and I’d like to see what it’s like in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, and work as a nurse on a reserve,” she said.

But she isn’t setting any plans beyond dreaming of possibilities. Vanessa is not worried because she knows that, with her PSW experience and a Fleming Practical Nursing diploma, there are so many opportunities to make a difference.

Practical Nursing graduate receives Governor General’s Exemplary Service Medal

Honorary Lieutenant-General Richard Rohmer (left) and Rebecca Thomas-Lorenzon at the awards ceremony in Windsor.

Rebecca Thomas-Lorenzon may be a recent graduate, but the Class of 2019 alumna has already made a huge mark as a medical professional with more than 20 years of exceptional service.

Rebecca was recently honoured with the Governor General’s Exemplary Service Medal from Northumberland County Council. This award recognizes paramedics who have provided pre-hospital emergency medical services in good conduct, industry and efficiency for 20 years or more, serving at least 10 years of street level or air duty involving potential risk.

“I felt very honored to receive the Governor General award, especially being a female,” said Rebecca. “I am the first female working on the road in Northumberland County to receive this award. So many women leave the road to pursue management or teaching and other [jobs] for personal reasons; not many stay on the road 10 years, let alone 23 years.”

Rebecca (right) with her aunt Sharon, who received this award years prior and is retired after 35 years in Waterloo region. Sharon is Rebecca’s role model, along with Fleming faculty member Mary Osinga. “Both are strong female paramedics that have forged the way for other women in the profession,” said Rebecca.

While serving as a first responder with Northumberland Paramedics, Rebecca also decided to go back to school, hoping to increase her career opportunities in the medical field.

“I knew I did not want to go into management,” Rebecca shared. “I took the Practical Nursing course as part of a childhood dream to become a nurse and my desire to do more international work.”

Rebecca chose Fleming College because of its proximity, which made balancing school with her full-time career and personal responsibilities (Rebecca is a mom and wife) more manageable. She chose the Practical Nursing program after speaking with nurses, who recommended this program for the hands-on skills she would gain.

“I developed very good time management skills which helped me get through the past two years,” Rebecca shared about her Fleming experience. “I have a better insight into the healthcare system and healthcare in general, which I hope will be an advantage for me when pursuing the Community Paramedic role coming in 2020 in Northumberland County.”

Rebecca said she is especially grateful for Career Services at Fleming College, which helped Rebecca update her resume and cover letter for employment as an RPN. She is currently working part-time at Northumberland Hills Hospital and says, “I suggest this amazing service to all Fleming students (young and old) and it is free!”

The Fleming graduate has no plans to slow down with her career or her education journey, as one of the quotes she lives by is “End is not the end. E.N.D. means Effort Never Dies.” Her next goal is to pursue her Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

2019 is a big and busy year for Valedictorian Alicia Alvarez

2019 is a big year for Alicia Alvarez.

In June, she is graduating from Fleming College. In September, she is writing the national exam to become registered to practice as a Registered Practical Nurse in Ontario. And in October, she is getting married.

But the Practical Nursing graduate enjoys being busy. While studying at Fleming College, Alicia also worked as a Personal Support Worker at Fairhaven LTC and volunteered on Sundays at Pathway Church.

“I love people and I wanted a career that was challenging and rewarding, while at the same time allowing me to make a difference every day,” said the Class of 2019 graduate. “I have always wanted to be a nurse.”

She is currently busy completing her 10-week nursing consolidation experience, applying the knowledge and skills she gained from the Practical Nursing program in a real healthcare setting.

“Even though I feel like I have so much to learn, the content learned in the Practical Nursing program has already proved useful in the real world,” said Alicia about her consolidation experience.

In Fleming’s five semester Practical Nursing diploma program, students learn concepts and skills related to health and nursing, as well as nursing practices and interventions in specific health situations, and more.

Alicia enjoyed Physiology taught by Kim Patterson and Anatomy taught by Kathryn Jarvis most. She explains, “They were always fun and interactive with great everyday life examples that facilitated our learning.”

She describes her time at Fleming as great, adding, “I loved the outdoor spaces of the Sutherland Campus and made friendships that will last a lifetime. I also had some amazing teachers that inspired me and taught me things you can’t find in a textbook.”

Now that Alicia is finished classes at Fleming, she is busy preparing her Valedictorian speech for the School of Health and Wellness and School of General Arts and Science ceremony.

“I couldn’t believe it!” said Alicia on being selected to serve as Valedictorian. “It took a few days for the news to sink in and then I felt very humbled and honoured.”

In her speech on Tuesday, June 11 (2 p.m.), Alicia plans to remind graduates to never give up, don’t be afraid of failure, and to always fight for your dreams.

After convocation, Alicia plans to work for three to five years and then return to school to continue her education and further develop her skills.

“The healthcare field is constantly evolving, and I believe that continuous learning is essential in order to deliver the best care to patients and families,” said Alicia.