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.”