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National Nursing Week

May 11, 2009

When Wilma Way came to Calgary for elective back surgery, she had no idea about the journey she would be embarking upon.

Way, a resident of Wembley, a tiny town 20 minutes west of Grande Prairie, suffered post-operative complications and spent more than seven months in hospital, both in Calgary and Grande Prairie.

Way touched the lives of health care workers in both cities with her spirit and humour.

In turn, she was touched by the professionalism of nurses and their collaborative approach to caring for patients across the province.

"I was very fortunate," says Way, who finally went home to Wembley in March. "I received exceptional care in both places."

Way's care illustrates the fact nurses across the province are all working on the same team and pooling their talents, energy and expertise for the benefit of all Albertans.

Way's journey through the health care system shows how former barriers are being torn down to ensure seamless, quality health care.

When Way came to Unit 111 at the Foothills Medical Centre, she had complex care needs. Registered nurses looked after many of the big-picture aspects of Way's care, such as monitoring and changing her pain control medication as required and looking after her central line.

Licensed practical nurses, who work to full scope of practice on the unit, attended to her day-to-day health care needs, while nursing aides helped her with activities of daily living: bathing, feeding and going to the bathroom.

After six and a half months at the Foothills, the care team on Unit 111 believed Way was ready to go home. The transfer process, which had begun months earlier, was put into full gear.

Jill Congram, nurse clinician on Unit 111, was in charge of much of Way’s move to the QEII Hospital in Grande Prairie.

Barb Seal, patient care manager on the unit, says one of Congram’s first jobs was to find a doctor in Grande Prairie and connect that physician with Way’s Calgary doctor.

"The nurse clinician co-ordinates most of the inquiries, to ensure the discharge destination meets the needs of the patient," says Seal.

All the medical information, discharge summaries and OR notes were part of the comprehensive care plan that went to Grande Prairie with Way and helped the nurses of Unit 5 North at the QEII Hospital continue her care.

"The binder and charts they sent up just helped us to understand the journey that Wilma had," says Marlee Parker, a registered nurse on Unit 5 North in Grande Prairie. "She had quite a long journey to get here and once she was here we were able to get her stable and send her home quite quickly."

Holly Wendt, clinical co-ordinator for Unit 5 North, is satisfied with the way the transfer process worked for Way.

"It allowed her to be closer to home and her family," she says. Nurses did a lot of discharge planning and teaching with her. "By the time we got her she was pretty much on her way to recovery. She just needed a little more recuperation time," says Wendt. "Physiotherapy, occupational therapy and clinical nutrition, they all worked with her, too. It was a team effort.”