Christina Khan was born and raised in London, Ontario, and has lived there her whole life. She graduated as an RPN in 2007 from Fanshawe College and began her career in long-term care (LTC).
“The role of RPNs was very different when I finished school,” says Christina. “It has advanced greatly and there are more opportunities in different fields where we previously weren’t allowed to work. Today, RPNs can work pretty much anywhere.”
She worked at city-owned Dearness Home for nine years (mostly nights) and became involved with the Residential Assessment Instrument (RAI) Minimum Data Set (MDS), calculating how much assistance each resident would require. Having to take care of 60 residents and coordinate treatments was a great experience for Christina, who became very familiar with medications as a result.
She then began working for Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO), caring for residents with cognitive impairments and different types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s. Christina’s role was to assess residents and identify triggers for particular behaviours. “That was a good learning opportunity,” she says. “You start to look at patients’ behaviours from a different angle, … trying to find the root cause [of the behaviour] — Where is this coming from? Why are they doing this?”
Eventually, Christina needed a new challenge, so she started working part-time in the Stroke Rehabilitation Center at St. Joseph’s Healthcare (SJHC) London — Parkwood Institute, where she’s remained for the past six years.
Christina works with a range of individuals, both in hospital and in the outpatient clinic, including amputees, stroke and neurological patients and people who have had brain and spinal cord injuries. This dynamic environment allows her to use her more advanced, acute skills, such as doing blood transfusions, bladder scanning, catheterization, running feeding tubes, wound care, etc.
“The rehab program at Parkwood is amazing,” exclaims Christina. “Patients do really, really well, and we try everything we can to help them gain more independence. There’s a lot of innovation for people with these kinds of challenges.”
These innovations include a sip ‘n’ puff (SNP) — which is an assistive technology designed to help patients who have lost the use of their hands to access computers and other vital technologies — and an exoskeleton — which supports and assists movement and augments physical capabilities in patients who have lost the use of their limbs. Exposure to these kinds of new technologies contributed to Christina’s growing interest in research. “I never really thought about research before I started getting involved in all this,” she says.
But then a friend and colleague approached Christina about a potential project involving RPNs. The “Building Capacity in Rehabilitation Services: Mapping Rehabilitation Nursing Care Practices in Geriatric and Stroke Rehabilitation Units” research project — funded by WeRPN — was created to examine the impact and contributions of RPNs to the care of stroke and geriatric rehabilitation patients. In 2022, Christina was recognized with an Award of Excellence and Innovation for her involvement in the project — the same year SJHC London’s Parkwood Institute was honoured with an award — and for inspiring her nursing colleagues to consider the importance of nurses’ contributions to the field of research.
Christina’s passion for research has flourished ever since. “Everything is driven by research, especially in the medical field,” she says, her eyes lighting up. “Even with the medications we give, research determines which medication will work better for a certain kind of stroke.”
As a preceptor, Christina always reminds her students about the impact that nursing can have on others. “You become a nurse because you want to enrich and make a difference in the lives of others,” she says. “You do it because you want to help people. Nursing is all about caring and loving and helping. I’ve had people come in who can’t walk, talk, or eat. And then one day, they walk out the door and they go home. And that’s the best part!”
Christina lives with multiple sclerosis (MS) — an experience that has profoundly shaped her both personally and professionally. “Losing your mobility is a huge thing,” she says. “You don’t want to go down that road, but unfortunately, it happens to people. … I think just carrying on and doing it helps me get through it. You can only take things one day at a time, one step at a time.” Christina always brings a positive outlook and hopes she will be able to continue bedside nursing for as long as possible. “I love bedside nursing! I still want to be with patients at the bedside and be able to talk to them, take care of them and help them recuperate.”