February's Nurse of the Month: Monica Carranza (she/her), RPN, BScPN, BA, Manager of Health Services, Geriatric Mental Health, MH CRT Nurses, MH Casual Nurses and MH ECT Liaison, Victoria Hospital

Originally enrolled in pre-nursing courses, with the goal of entering the BN program at the University of Manitoba, as a mature student, wife, and mother, Monica had her heart set on NICU nursing. But one day, a professor mentioned psych nursing and sparked a new passion within her. Monica switched gears from NICU to psych nursing after the professor's suggestion.

“I had never heard of it before, so I looked it up, decided to put my application in at Brandon University and I was fortunate enough to be one of the 40 that got to stay in the city,” Monica explains. “They were quite accommodating because I had a family and I just felt like this was the proper place for me in my life. That's what I say to everyone: I have that gratitude and things worked out and aligned.”

Since then, Monica has truly found her spot and is thriving in her role as the Manager of Health Services, Geriatric Mental Health, MH CRT Nurses, MH Casual Nurses and MH ECT Liaison, Victoria Hospital.

“I thought, where am I going to be best with the skills that I have and the advocacy that I love to do? Going through the program I realized geriatric people don't always have family, they’re by themselves. You know they're the lost population. Sometimes there's no one there to speak for them.”

From her beginnings at St. Boniface Hospital completing her nursing practicum, to her journey through the Geriatric Mental Health Unit at Seven Oaks, and finally landing at Victoria Hospital in the 2018 transition and amalgamation, it's truly a full circle moment for her.

“Fortunately, I’m back here as the manager for the unit that I started with and it's like a full circle now for me. I'm very thankful for this opportunity and working with the team we have,” shares Monica. “We're very fortunate at the Vic, we get social work, occupational therapy, spiritual care. We have psychologists that come. We have our own pharmacist. Patients can exercise here, and we have a recreational therapist. We have all these resources and I’m so thankful.”

Another synchronic moment came for Monica while she was at BU. Her dad suffered a TIA (transient ischaemic attack) in her first year of the program and she found herself immersed in the system she was learning about. Then, when her mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, in her last year of her program, her medical skills were put to the test and she was able to support her mom’s journey for 5 years. As she navigated being both part of the health-care system and learning about it as a student, she gained a unique perspective on the importance of quality care and compassion, shaping her into a well-rounded health-care professional.

“There were appointments, and I was thinking “Can you believe this? I'm actually in this portion of my class and I need it for my family.”

“I had the supports that I needed, my husband, kids, family and friends, but also the university. They were so supportive, your colleagues, your classmates are all really close. We really watched each others backs,” Monica says. “If I needed to miss class, they all made sure I had what I needed.”

These days, in her role, she goes above and beyond to provide support to others. Whether it's lending a listening ear or offering guidance, she never hesitates to give back, to both colleagues and patients.

“You can see the need. You can see the appreciation. You can see that they need someone, and they can tell that you want to be there,” shares Monica. “You're not seeking that gratification, but to know that they know that you're there and that you want to care for them, I always get to come in smiling and I love what I do.”