National Nursing Week Profile: Doris Gilbert
You have been a nurse for 40 years – what an amazing accomplishment! Do you remember what inspired you to choose the profession in the first place?
I hadn’t planned on going into nursing, it happened quite by accident. I took a job as a nurse’s aide one summer during high school at the local hospital. I was working on a neuro floor – there were people who had suffered quite traumatic injury and had very serious illnesses. I saw the dedication of the nurses to helping those people move forward with their lives.
There was actually someone on the unit from my high school. She was in an acute stage of a disease – I was so impressed with what the nurses were doing and she did get better. Before that I hadn’t even thought about nursing as a profession, but that summer job changed my life. It motivated me to go into nursing.
What was it about working at the bedside that appeals to you?
What I loved about nursing was the fact that I got instant gratification. I worked primarily in a variety of acute care settings, including Cardiac Surgery ICU, Critical Care Float Pool, and Thoracic/Vascular Surgical wards. It was wonderful to see patients going from being quite ill to dramatically improved. It was very satisfying to play a part in that. Sadly, when I got injured, I had to leave the bedside and that was very difficult.
How did you cope with that?
I had enjoyed bedside nursing so much and did go through a grieving process. I wondered how I was going to continue to actively contribute. I decided to go back to school to get my degree (2000-2002). I wanted to do something that was both meaningful to me personally and as a professional too. And I’m fortunate that I found clinical care where I could continue working in the profession.
It did take some time to learn the job – I was still recovering after my surgery and trying to understand the language that buyers use and figure out what they needed help with. They don’t teach you that in nursing school! But, fortunately, I had a few really good mentors. My background as a nurse definitely helped me too. I have a connection with the nurses and physicians who I’m talking to about the products and I have a lot of respect for them. They know I have good decision-making skills.
Would you say it’s been satisfying bringing the voice of nurses – and other healthcare professionals – to the procurement process?
Yes, absolutely. Being with HealthPRO plays a big part in that. I attend the Clinical Advisory Committee (CAC) when the contracts involve products that fall within my portfolio. I go out to the clinicians – nurses, physicians, other healthcare providers – and get their feedback on the products: what do they need, what’s working well and what isn’t – and I take that feedback back to the HealthPRO CAC. I also participate in the investigation and resolution of issues and concerns associated with the use of certain products and equipment.
Once the contracts are signed I’m involved in their implementation: getting the product into the warehouse, onto shelves, and I help organize the education on how to use the product.
I’m excited about the development of value analysis teams – bringing in the voice of physicians and clinicians into the procurement process is an important step in our current environment, where we’re trying to get the best value out of our healthcare dollars.
Can you tell me about an accomplishment you’re particularly proud of?
One of my major accomplishments was assisting with the implementation of safety engineered IV catheters and needles and syringes in the Fraser Health Authority in BC in 2004. This was a first for the province and in fact, engineered sharps safety products, although established in the US, were fairly new to the workplace in Canada. Their true value wasn’t yet fully understood but I recognized this was the first major commitment to the health and safety of nurses that I was involved with. Because these products were so new, there was a bit of pushback from the nurses in the beginning, but a year and a half into it, they became full participants in a meaningful way.
Of all the changes happening in the profession, what do you feel most positive about?
I feel good about the fact that it’s not just about the way things have always been done. When I was learning to be a nurse we were taught things like how to give a bed bath, it was a copy and paste approach. Now we do a full assessment and take a holistic approach – see how the patient is doing, involve the family, consider the emotional and physical components of their health – I see this as a really positive aspect to the profession now.
Looking at the profession today, what do you think is something the public should know about nurses that they often don’t?
It used to be that I didn’t tell people I was a Clinical Coordinator – I didn’t quite know how to explain it in a way that they would understand. Now I tell them and they say, that’s interesting. What’s positive about it is that there are so many avenues open to you – a real variety of things you can do as a nurse.
I’m surprised – and encouraged – by how many young people want to be nurses. I met many when I was in hospital having my surgery. There is a lot of concern as our population ages that there won’t be enough young people, especially nurses, to care for us – but there are a lot of young nurses entering the profession. They’re bright and interesting and inquisitive. I think that’s a very positive thing.