There’s no such thing as a typical nurse!

When my sister and I were little our grandmother made us Nurse’s Uniforms. They consisted of Nurse’s Hats, white with two black stripes; aprons with a red cross on the bib; a thermometer and a stethoscope.

We played for hours, closing off the bedroom hallway of our bungalow, each of the three bedrooms becoming a patient’s room, complete with handbasin, paper bags for waste. Our dolls were the patients, when our baby brother took off in disgust. We’d diagnose, hand out medication, give back rubs, and boss each other around… mostly me since I was older.

Nurse. If you grew up in the 60’s, it was one of three career options for a girl. (two guesses for the others).

Today, the role of Nurse is significantly different. In fact, nursing is a diversified career option and covers much more than hospital corridors. Sophistication of technology, advancement of family health clinics, specialization of diagnostic equipment… the demands are many.

Caregivers range from PSW (Personal Support Worker) to RN (Registered Nurse) to RPN (Registered Practical Nurse) to RNEC (Registered Nurse Extended Class) to Nurse Practitioner.

Today, in Simcoe County, 30 Nurse Practitioners are carrying huge loads of medical service, in order to shift the workload from our enormous doctor shortage.

Jackie Giddings is one of them. Jackie began her nursing career as an RN in 1974. She has a long background in nursing care, including 12 years at RVH in the Emergency Department. She added to her four years post secondary education and with at least two years nursing experience, she took her Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner Program and then a provincial exam which licences her to perform Nurse Practitioner services. It’s taken eight years to become a Nurse Practitioner.

As a Nurse Practitioner, Jackie can order and reorder medications, lab tests, xrays. She can diagnose and confer. She is a valued asset to the medical system in Simcoe County.

In 2003 the province mandated 117 nurse practitioners into key roles in Ontario’s health system. Simcoe County got seven of these; one went to Grove Park Home. And that is Jackie Giddings. As an employee of Grove Park Home, Jackie’s responsible for caring for 143 residents in the home, and her full time position is funded by the Ministry of Health.

The Nurse Practitioner’s roles are unique. Not only can they give primary medical care, they run women’s wellness clinics; they look after ‘orphaned’ patients… people who are living in the region with no family physican, and no follow up care. They operate sexual health clinics through the public health system and now with the new family health teams, Nurse Practitioners are working with 3-4 family physicians to round out medical care.

“People without family doctors go to walk-in clinics or emergency departments. A husband and wife with a couple of kids have no where to go… for shots, checkups, continued care so the family health teams really help doctors take on more patients. It’s scary that people with diabetes and no family doctor are getting their service from a walk-in clinic!”

At Grove Park Home, Jackie’s office is open to the community, too. She has almost 500 patients registered to her through Georgian College. Two days of every week she runs a clinic for Georgian students who have no health care. Georgian doesn’t have a health office due to lost funding.

Jackie says her work with Georgian students is diverse. As well as sexual health issues, students come for testing, for annual physicals for work placements and college entry. They come with acute sports injuries and afflictions like strept throat, pneumonia… things that Jackie diagnoses.

She deals with a lot of mental health issues, too. “Sometimes they’re referred by the college because a staff person feels they may need medication. I screen them first, especially now that they’re only 17 and away from home for the first time. They’re stressed out; they’re not eating properly; they need to talk about how they’re feeling, what their stresses are,” she says.

“I send them for blood tests… often they are really low in iron which can be a huge factor in depression. They’re not eating iron-loaded red meat because it’s too expensive.

“I’m not a counsellor but I am a mother and I have kids who’ve gone through college and university so I can listen to them, do some lab tests, do a physical and I can refer them to my physician partners.”

Those partners see patients in Jackie’s Grove Park Home office two days each month.

Jackie’s work day is long, diverse and very rewarding. She sees patients in the community who are without a family doctor. She works with Dr. McTurk, the doctor at Grove Park Home and together they choose courses of action which allow residents to avoid a hospital stay.

All over Simcoe County, NP’s are taking their place in a medical system that is pressured by shortages. Thanks, Jackie!