Chelsea is committed to providing palliative patients with the best quality of life.
Chelsea Gagnon began her career as a personal support worker (PSW), working at a group home for clients with disabilities. Although she found the profession fulfilling, she wanted to expand her knowledge and decided to pursue a career in nursing. She studied at Sault College and worked in long-term care as part of her school community placement. Having experience working as both a PSW and a nurse, Chelsea now has a profound respect for her PSW colleagues. “One cannot do their job without the other,” she says.
Upon graduating in 2017, Chelsea returned to her hometown of Espanola, Ontario, where she currently works in Family Health Team with the Complex and Palliative Support team. Alongside two other nurses, Chelsea and her team assess the needs of patients in the community and provide support to individuals with life-limiting illness. She has been working in this role full-time for the past year.
“We wanted to go into these people’s homes and get to know them so that we could provide them with the best quality of life for the time that they have,” she says.
The goal is to get patients into their program as early as possible so that Chelsea and her team can best support patients’ wishes, follow them along their journeys and assist them in transitioning at end of life. The team provides holistic care that goes beyond a sole focus on patients’ physical ailments, but rather looks at their overall wellbeing, including their mental, spiritual and emotional health.
Chelsea was the recipient of the 2022 WeRPN Michael & Werner Geidlinger Award of Excellence in Palliative Care, awarded at this year’s AGM. She was recognized for having helped many patients and families during their palliative care journeys, as well as for advocating for them, providing the best quality of care and helping to meet the patients’ needs and goals.
Chelsea says it feels like her entire team won that award. “I wouldn’t be able to do this job without them. We’re a team.” She goes on to say, “winning that award was such an honour. To me, it shows that our team is doing good for our community, and that’s our goal — to help the patients; the patients are our number one priority.”
Chelsea is a lifelong learner. She trained for her critical yet challenging role by taking several courses, including Pallium’s Learning Essential Approaches to Palliative Care (LEAP) courses. She has also gained a lot of valuable on-the-job training and experience. She plans to continue to expand her nursing knowledge this upcoming year, through conferences and online courses, including the Advanced Care Planning course she hopes to complete this winter. Upon completion of this course, Chelsea will become a lead trainer, which will allow her and her team to start offering advanced care planning appointments to anyone in the community. This new project will provide the public with education on various topics, such as substitute decision makers, power of attorney and more.
Outside of work, Chelsea has had several major personal milestones over the past five years, including having gotten married in 2018 and having had her first baby only 18 months ago.
Reflecting on her journey and achievements, Chelsea shared her advice to student nurses:
“Just follow your goals. Nursing is a great profession to get into, and there are so many different routes you can take. You have to find the right fit and if something doesn’t work for you, just find your passion; find a role that makes you love coming to work.”
She also advises anyone who wishes to become a nurse not to let the current healthcare challenges deter them from a path in nursing. “It’s still a very rewarding profession,” she says. “You go home at the end of the day and you know you’ve made a difference in someone’s life; that alone makes it all worth it.”