By Roy G. Mundheim, RN
From the time she was a child, Sylvia Moreau knew that she wanted to make a difference and help people. Both her parents were nurses and she admired their passion and commitment. Believing that people should do what makes them truly happy and to never settle for anything that doesn’t excite them, Moreau left her career in administration at age 36 to pursue what she really wanted in life; to become a Registered Nurse.
With her two children older and becoming self sufficient, Moreau entered North Island College’s BSN program with enthusiasm and vigour. She took great pride in acquiring nursing knowledge and skills. “I wanted to be that nurse who made a difference for patients and be the one who could help those that were scared, vulnerable, alone, or in pain.” Moreau became skilled in IV starts and assessments with a focus on minimizing pain and fear. Her excellent computer skills from her previous real estate job also made her the go-to class-mate when fellow students needed help with computer trouble-shooting. She was on her way and following her dream.
In the early part of her second year in nursing school, Moreau was met with a new challenge. Feeling things with her health were not quite right, she had a series of doctor’s appointments and diagnostic tests. By Christmas of 2008, she was diagnosed with Stage IV carcinoid neuroendocrine cancer, a slow indolent cancer that does not respond to chemotherapy or all that well to radiation.
Believing in “taking control of the things that you have control over”, Moreau continued her studies and proudly graduated from nursing school in April of 2011. She then began her nursing career in acute care at St. Joseph’s Hospital in the Comox Valley. Determined to enjoy her new career and advance her skills and knowledge, Moreau then followed her passion for wound care. She completed advanced high level courses in wound care through the Canadian Association for Wound Care travelling to both Vancouver and Halifax. Moreau became an even more valuable contributor to St. Joseph’s Hospital by assessing and treating wounds, not only on her own medical-surgical units, but also bringing her expertise and skills to the ICU and ER on request.
While her nursing career was going better than she had even hoped for, Moreau was dealing with ongoing cancer symptoms and physical decline, making her work increasingly difficult. Increasing fatigue, weakness, nausea, and pain caused her to cut back her hours and take on a modified role on the floor. Anemia requiring ongoing IV iron transfusions, regular bowel obstructions requiring surgery, and liver pain indicating advanced metastasis led to more time off eventually leading her to step away from her career in 2014. “My realization came when I had to ask a colleague to help me remove a patient’s compression stockings because I was just too weak. I couldn’t expect others to pick up my slack. It was so hard to leave when I was mentally and emotionally able to carry on but just couldn’t do it physically.”
While some days are tougher than others, she stays positive and leans on her family and friends. “I do not dwell in the future. I live in the now”, Moreau says. When asked about how she sees things now and how she has changed, she pauses, “My perspective on life and day to day choices has changed. I am continuing to learn and grow to become a better person….oh, I don’t put up with bullshit anymore!” she says with a wry smile. She now spends some of her time carving ostrich and emu eggs because it keeps her mind occupied and she says she likes being ‘unique’.
Moreau has a message for nurses, nursing students, and those thinking of going into the profession. “Know and appreciate how difficult it is to be a patient relying on other people for your medication, your bathroom use, your nutrition…and appreciate what a privilege it is to be a nurse, giving back, and caring for people. Don’t look for short cuts in your work when you are starting out. You will be doing yourself and your patients a great disservice, which can potentially lead to a bad situation. Learn your role as a Registered Nurse, and learn it well! Respect yourself, your co-workers, and your patients! ”
Although she is no longer practicing nursing, her love for her profession is evident, “I still enjoy talking about nursing, getting together with colleagues, discussing the state of nursing and the medical system.” When asked about the current state of nursing and changes she would like to see, Moreau had no shortage of suggestions. “I’d like to see a better nurse to patient ratio, allowing nurses the time for full assessments and complete documentation. This would benefit doctors, nurses, and patients. Also, let’s stop pushing patients out before they’re ready in the name of money and bed space. While our healthcare is being run like a business, patient care is being compromised.”
Sylvia Moreau is now on disability and is a Registered Nurse non-practicing. She has undergone radiation for palliative debulking and subsequent pain control. She continues to remain positive enjoying and appreciating every day, “I have loving family and friends beside me which has made this chapter in my life worthwhile, alive, and manageable. I’m living the best I can and enjoying what is available around me. Every day I find a reason to smile and to laugh.”
Roy G. Mundheim: Norwegian-Canadian freelance writer and Registered Nurse living in Vancouver, Canada with his wife, Lesly. Roy currently works as an acute care nurse at Vancouver General Hospital. He also has extensive experience in geriatric long term and hospice/palliative care. You can find his ridiculous musings regularly on his blog where he writes about health, fitness, food, drink, mindset, lifestyle, travel and much much more. He thinks he’s pretty funny too!