© Jim Day - The Guardian
Sharon Hay, a nurse in the QEH emergency department, says receiving the Marjorie Vessey Award for excellence in nursing is "amazing…especially when your peers are the ones nominating you.''
At first, Sharon Hay heeded her mother’s advice to avoid nursing as a career, but soon found it to be a calling to the point she is now a nursing award recipient.
Mom told Hay time and time again not to be a nurse.
Speaking from experience, Hay’s mother cautioned that the nursing profession is just so terribly difficult.
Hay clearly recalls her mother warning “how you were never home on time and you were always having to give care late and you never got to do things with your family.’’
Not long into her studies at UPEI, Sharon Hay realized “pretty quick’’ that she really wanted to be a nurse.
“I just like to care for people,’’ says Hay, this year’s recipient of the prestigious Marjorie Vessey Award, an annual accolade delivered during National Nursing Week to an individual nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown who has contributed significantly to nursing care at the hospital.
“It’s caring. It’s being empathetic and getting the thrill of actually helping people and doing things for them," said Hay.
Reinforcement came early and often that nursing was the correct career choice for the Cornwall mother of four, who now has a daughter studying to be a nurse.
“There was something every day,’’ she says.
“Patients inspire you. The staff you work with inspires you. It’s fun to go to work. Your co-workers are like you best friends.’’
Hay’s first dozen or so years as a nurse were spent working on the medical floor in Unit 8 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. She loved this job, particularly the diversity of experiences the unit offered her and other nurses.
“You get the basics of everything down on the medical floor,’’ she says.
For the past decade or so, Hay has been working in the emergency department.
Many days, of course, can be a rollercoaster of emotions. People die and people are saved. Sometimes such a sad low and an extreme high occur in the same shift.
Some days, Hay takes the weight of a heavy shift home with her.
“There are certain patients that get to you,’’ she says.
“It’s just because of what they went through or something they might have said to you or just a moment that you might have had together and it just catches you.’’
She can rely on staff for informal debriefing to help get through difficult incidents at the hospital. Her real focus, though, is to try to lighten the heavy load carried by patients and their loved ones.
“I always try to think about how I would like to be treated in a situation,’’ she says.
Mike MacDonald, nurse manager for the emergency department, says the greatest compliment one can give a health care professional is that you would let them look after your own family.
“Everyone who works in the emergency department and who has worked with Sharon over the years would say that about her,’’ says MacDonald.
Hay makes a point of never becoming stagnant in her profession. She is always very involved.
She is president of the P.E.I. chapter of the National Emergency Nurses Association, and she has been a member of every emergency department committee at the QEH.
“No matter how big or small the issue, Sharon wants to be a part of the solution,’’ says MacDonald.
“We all look up to Sharon.’’
Hay says receiving the Marjorie Vessey Award, which is named after the former QEH director of nursing who still volunteers at the hospital, is an amazing honour.
At 47, Hay says she has plenty of energy to carry on nursing for many years to come.
“It has way too many rewards to give it up,’’ she says.
“Every day I come to work I have something positive to take home. I can’t wait to get to work.’’