October's Nurse of the Month: Victoria Marek (she/her), RN BN GNC(C) LTC-CIP, Clinical Services Coordinator, River Park Gardens PCH

Victoria Marek (she/her) is a Registered Nurse with a Bachelor of Nursing (BN) and certifications in Gerontological Nursing (GNC(C)) and Long-Term Care Infection Prevention and Control (LTC-CIP). She embarked on her career journey as a Health-Care Aide, dedicated to aiding the people of Manitoba. Loving the work she did as a Health-Care Aide, she made the decision to return to school as a mature student, graduating as a nurse from the University of Manitoba in 2007.

“I had two kids and went back to school when my youngest started kindergarten. I juggled the two kids, hockey, dance, and nursing school, but nursing was a passion, so it really didn't feel that hard to me,” says Victoria.

Now Victoria is the Clinical Services Coordinator at River Park Gardens PCH. Prior to this she worked in emergency rooms and was also a Clinical Education Facilitator with the University of Manitoba.

“I live in this area of town, so it's my community as well which I really like,” she says. “I tend to get pulled towards the smaller community sites. I like the feel of community where everyone knows everyone who works there, as opposed to the larger facilities. I’ve had a lot of really great opportunities, and I met a lot of great people.”

After working in various other roles, Victoria has found her place working in long-term care, but she says it isn’t what many people may think it is. She acknowledges the misconceptions about the field and is eager to dispel them.

“We take nursing students here all the time, and when I ask them where they want to work, nobody ever says long-term care. Sometimes they will go as far to say when they’re close to retirement, they’ll work in long-term care. I giggle because I think this is the last job you would want to work at if you’re close to retirement,” she says. “It’s so busy, and the skill set you need is very complex. You need to be able to do assessments, rely on your critical thinking, be able to communicate and understand the needs of those who’s disease processes have deteriorated their ability to give you clear answers, and work through your nursing process without a lot of machines or access to immediate diagnostic supports.  You really have to put a big picture together from a lot of puzzle pieces with your team.”

“I picked up a really great skill set in Long-Term Care, and I try to advocate that this isn't a place where you just come to hand out pills and give people a place to be while they live out their last days, it’s their home and we should be giving them the best quality of life possible” says Victoria. “I try and get the students here to understand that even if this isn't their choice for senior practicum, they can get a skill set here that they can take it out into the community or into acute care.”

She adds that long-term care is about holistic care, communication, relationship building, and creating resident-centered care plans. That it’s about providing the best possible care for the residents and being a part of this journey with them and their loved ones.

Along with new, passionate nurses going into long-term care, she says advocacy is needed too to make sure that it gets the recognition and the support that the work and residents deserve.

“If you want to work in relationship-based care, long-term care is a good fit for you. Getting to know the residents, spending time with them, getting to know their families, and creating care plans that make you an integral part of their extended family, is akin to being in their home caring for them,” Victoria says. “If you have or aspire to develop strong leadership skills, long-term care is the perfect environment for refining those qualities.”

No matter what field you’re in, Victoria has a few words of encouragement for all of us:

“There's a big difference between those who are here to help, and those who are here to serve,” she says. “A person who is serving doesn't believe they are any better than the other person. They're just there to serve the needs of that person at that moment in time, above their own needs usually. You can have a crazy day, and everything can go wrong, and the people who are here to serve, they go home with a smile on their face.”