Career Profiles:
Allison Sanderson

Allison was a Red Seal Chef for 10 years, then was encouraged to become a PSW by a friend named Brenda Smith. Shortly after, it was also Brenda who urged her to become an RPN because she believed Allison had the potential to become a great nurse. Brenda had been teaching nursing while working in the Palliative Unit at Southlake Regional Health Centre and made Allison love Palliative Care. She hasn't looked back since. She’s been a nurse for the past 18 years!

When Allison first came to Southlake, she wanted nothing more than to work in Palliative Care. It drew her in because of the people. Over the years, she has expanded her knowledge to include Oncology and General Medicine. A few years ago, Allison was approached by the organization’s Palliative physician lead Dr. Marrow to research and develop a policy for Lymphedema Drainage for use in the Palliative setting. It was a long process but one she was very proud of. She developed the policy and procedure based on the research and was able to bring that particular skill into use at her hospital.

Every year, Allison takes on students either through a preceptorship or as a mentor. She has had the privilege of watching most of these students become great nurses at her own facility. Being an RPN has given her self-confidence and strength that she never believed that she could have. It has taught her to trust in herself and to be a better person. While Allison does have a reputation of being “a little tough”, she says it’s only because she always thinks that people can do more than they think they can. Nursing teaches you to be better, stronger, smarter and Allison is an advocate for teaching the new young nurses to be who they are and to be greater than they think they can be.

Allison is lucky enough to have a daughter who is now an RN at her hospital. For Allison, her daughter is her everything and they enjoy cooking and spending time together. She also has a serious love for her dog Mocha and cat Jenny. Unfortunately, like many nurses, Allison says she doesn’t take much time for myself. Between work and her duties as an RPN Steward for SEIU, she is pretty busy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed her workplace. Since the start of her hospital’s pandemic planning, her unit changed to a straight Medicine Unit. Her palliative patients were moved to another part of the hospital, mostly for their safety. This has caused some stress, as those on her team who work palliative care really miss that patient population. They now have had to switch gears and are dealing with new things that most of our nurses have not had to do. While Allison says it creates some stress, she believes it is a great learning opportunity. They are a wonderful team, very supportive of each other both at work and in their personal lives so they know how to work together. Her unit does get COVID-suspected patients and though she and her team are fearful, they are working through it. Allison is most proud of how the hospital has come together during this crisis. She believes they are stronger now than ever before.

Four years ago, Allison’s father was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. He spent 8 weeks in and out of my hospital. Unfortunately that was all the time that he had and he passed away peacefully on the very unit where she works. Allison says she never really had the chance to say how much she appreciated everything that her hospital did for her. She was supported by everyone and her father received the best care possible. She could go home at night knowing that he was in great hands. From the cleaners to porters to housekeeping staff, her dad was treated with respect and dignity. She hopes that all patients are treated this way. At Southlake, Allison says they still maintain the air of a cottage hospital. Everyone is greeted with a friendly smile. She hopes they never lose that sense of community. Through this pandemic, she has seen such support from the community. Posters in people’s windows, donations of food and masks and scrub caps, PPE and hand sanitizers. The outpouring has been amazing. She attributes some of that to the care that they provide on a daily basis. She know because her family and she received it firsthand.

At the time of writing this profile, Allison is waiting on word of redeployment. She have volunteered to go to one of the local nursing homes to assist in patient care to help alleviate some of the strain from their staff. She feels that it is important to participate where you are able. She is not currently treating COVID patients on her unit and believes she can do more to help. Her hospital is assisting in the community and they will provide all the training, support and necessary PPE.

Allison has learned that to be a nurse you must be willing to advocate for what you feel is right and not just when it comes to your patients. You must believe in yourself and others will believe in you.

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