Nursing Week: Barrie nurse finds working in the emergency department challenging and rewarding

Patty Schilling said nursing gives her the opportunity to make a difference in people's lives

Patty Schilling is literally where the action is.

As the resource nurse in the emergency department, also known as the team leader, at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie, Schilling is living the experience she hoped for when she chose a career in nursing, something which is challenging and rewarding.

“I wanted the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Schilling has been at RVH for 17 years and spent five years in transplant at Toronto General.

This is Nursing Week. The theme is ‘Our Calling: Care, Compassion, Comfort.’

While the week is marked by celebrating the remarkable work of nurses, there has been extra attention paid to the profession during this COVID-19 pandemic, and not just nurses who work in hospitals, but other settings such as long-term care and public health.

In a career that has spanned two decades, one of the biggest changes Schilling has seen in nursing is the emphasis on teamwork, there is more of it.

“It’s improved significantly,” said Schilling. “Part of the reason is the patients we are seeing are sicker and need more care.”

Asked what’s a good day at the hospital and Schilling wastes no time with her answer, which may explain why initially she wanted a career as a teacher. Schilling said knowing that she has taught a family or patient something and they understand.

One of the hardest part of her nursing career is happening now. Schilling said not allowing patients to have visitors except for a few exceptions.

Working in the emergency department presents other challenges, such as prioritizing what patients get seen first. Schilling said the sickest person gets seen first.

“I have to explain why. It’s the hardest thing to tell someone who has been there five hours that someone who arrived eight minutes ago gets seen ahead of them even though that person arrived first.”

The emergency department isn’t without its share of tragic outcomes for patients. While loved ones are most affected, Schilling said the death of a patient also hits the medical team and others who may have had contact with that person.

“We do a debrief,” said Schilling. “We look at what went well, what we would change. And we gather in group as soon as possible as a team.”

Schilling said the team may include paramedics, police, other first responders, as well as spiritual care.

Schilling appreciates the extra attention nurses and other health-care workers have received from the community because of the pandemic. She is grateful the community has come together. Social media has been filled with an outpouring of support for nurses, doctors and others on the front-lines of this crisis. There was even a drive-by of vehicles at RVH recently as people showed thanks to the staff for their efforts.

“I just see my role as something that is a necessary part of the job in health-care. “

There is a crack in her modesty when Schilling does admit the support makes her smile and warms her heart.

There is really nothing in her career that Schilling would change. She said nursing is a great job if the person has the right mindset to do it.

Schilling rhymes off the large spectrum of opportunities available to nurses in the health-care field, everything from public health to ICU, and the emergency department.

“Nursing is rewarding and it can be sad. Both sets of emotions.”